Cuba’s Slow Awakening

Erasmo Calzadilla

Photo: Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — The following is an excerpt from a piece published in the “Letters to the Editor” section of the Spanish edition of the official Granma newspaper:

“There might be other reasons to explain why productivity hasn’t increased, but what has been demonstrated so far is that the methods adopted haven’t succeeded, despite the years they’ve been employed.

“A completely different situation is happening with the prices of products and services that people have to buy for their everyday household needs.

“With the exception of the few products that are still on the ration book, but that only cover the needs for a part of the month, the other prices are constantly increasing. Some of those are because they’re imported and prices are increasing globally, while others are because these are artificially increased by self-employed vendors.

“Such prices are rising beyond the reach of the average family, whose situation is becoming extremely tense and in time will become unbearable.”    — E. Naranjo Torres

Almost all the letters in that section have a similar ring, with the fault being directed at and falling on self-employed workers, bureaucrats or capitalism – though the system itself remains intact.

The part saying the ration book “only covers the needs for a part of the month” is an inaccurate expression; it covers only some basic products for a fraction of the month. But apart from these digressions and inaccuracies, I think the man made some very bold statements: the economic reforms “haven’t succeeded” and “the situation is becoming extremely tense.”

If this same thing had been said by some blogger, no supporter of the revolution from abroad would have believed it. It’s true that there’s no starvation or a humanitarian crisis, but things are looking ugly and in time it’s likely “they’ll become unbearable.”

Raul’s reforms, at least in the capital, haven’t been successful. The GDP* has been on an uphill march since 1994, but the purchasing power of the average Cuban family seems to be going backward. It’s the same with health care, education, the availability of food and public transportation.

I sense a growing discomfort, but one that shows no signs of evolving into any kind of new political consciousness. It’s as if they’ve administered a vaccine against it.

If disturbances were to occur in the future, the political and economic elites would make the most of that at the expense of those who are the most passive and unorganized: the general public and the workers.

The distortion of political consciousness is a key in the construction of “socialism” – but it’s also its weakness.


Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

32 thoughts on “Cuba’s Slow Awakening

  • September 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm


    Again I repeat: It’s not up to me to give Cuba democracy and human rights. I say only that I am in favour of those things for Cuba. It is up to Cubans to demand their rights. What they then do with them, will be their business.

    It’s ironic to read Lawrence claiming the Occupy Movement is a blood brother of Cuban activists. I don’t imaging very many Cuban human rights activists would be much impressed by the Occupy protesters carrying portraits of Che and Mao and chanting Marxist slogans. And I haven’t seen any Cuban dissidents smashing up storefronts and throwing molotov cocktails like the Occupy thugs have done.

  • September 2, 2012 at 5:45 am

    Does anyone else find ‘Griffin’ becoming a tad strident lately – “Larry buddy” – hardly; ‘smelling’ “personal insecurity” – the pot calling the kettle black?, “bullish*t” and “sh*t” – the use of swear words? Just noting the obvious.

    On to more meatier matters. Quoting half of a very short article and omitting the rest, thus changing its meaning, is a technique of propaganda.

    ‘Pointing out that ‘Griffin’ is a merchant of propaganda is viewed by him as a personal attack. If it was a false charge it might be construed as such but all the evidence indicates it is not. Why is ‘Griffin’ so fanatical about selling capitalism on a Cuban website? He claims “it’s for democracy and human rights” yet ignores the obvious breaches in his own country, instead choosing to support ‘democracy and human rights’ in Cuba? Spare us. Speaking of bad smells…

    ‘Griffy’ writes, “Larry doesn’t like facts”. I post lengthy comments chock full of facts that never get answered by ‘Griffy’. Now I know why – he obviously has difficulties differentiating facts from propaganda.

    ‘Griffin’ claims I have a “vision of the socialist paradise in Cuba”. Certainly nothing I’ve written would indicate that to anyone other than a propagandist erecting a false premise. I wouldn’t be reading Havana Times if I thought that, would I? What I mostly do, for perspective, is point out flaws in the vision of a capitalist paradise that folks like ‘Griffin’ forever foist on us.

    ‘Griffin’, knowing almost nothing about what I do in Canada states categorically, using a cuss word no less, that I’m doing nothing. Without realizing it, he’s giving away a lot about himself. The one thing he does know from what I’ve written is that I have been an active supporter and worker for the Occupy Movement in Toronto which is a blood relation to the activist groups in Cuba that are seeking changes in support of a better way of life for Cuban people – the same symbolic 99% that Occupy is focused on.

    Knowing of my support for Occupy and writing that I am doing nothing for Canada tells us what ‘Griffin’ thinks about movements that support the interests of the 99%. Yet he wants to “fix Cuba” by giving its people “democracy and human rights”. The bad smell is becoming really awful.

  • September 1, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Oh, what’s this:

    “For our family these are important items, from a little soap to a backpack for school,” a woman identified as Loraine wrote on the state-run Cubadebate website. “We all make sacrifices to help them. Nothing falls from the sky. Why are they turning their backs on reality? Knowing how many shortages there are in the country, why be so strict?”

    While President Raúl Castro has tried to expand the private sector, the government has done little to provide wholesale outlets where businesses can buy parts and materials for the goods they sell, so many supplies are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive due to high government retail markups.”

    So not only are the reforms not going far enough, the government is jacking taxes on imports so high they’re adding to inflation and making it hard for the new self-employed to be successful. That doesn’t sound like revolutionary socialism to me. It sounds more like old school gangsterism taking a cut of the action.

    And that is why the democracy and human rights are essential.

  • September 1, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Larry buddy, you wrote,

    ‘Griffin” as usual is compelled to bring to our attention an HT item, hardly necessary one would think as most folks like me peruse all of the material on HT”

    I detect the scent of a personal insecurity there, does anybody else see what I’m talking about?

    Yes, I think so. Larry doesn’t like facts being pointed out to him. His reaction is to make personal attacks on those who ask a few questions or point out a few contradictions in the official story. This is typical symptom when somebody is insisting on an slogan he doesn’t really believe in, when he knows it’s bullish*t.

    I didn’t ignore anything in the report, that’s why I linked the whole thing. But thanks for pointing out the call for further, real reforms to help the Cuban economy. The reforms Raul introduced don’t go near far enough to help. And that’s only on the economy. To really fix Cuba, the people need democracy and human rights.

    Now if I’m a propagandist, it’s for democracy and human rights. You have a problem with that? Are those things incompatible with your vision of the socialist paradise in Cuba?

    Oh, and drop the faux heroic posturing, “staying and working for change in (your) country” … you’re not doing sh*t for Canada. You’re enjoying the easy living and whining about it to make yourself fell better.

  • September 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    ‘Griffin’ and ‘ viva cuba libre’ pretty much echo the same refrain, – if I don’t like life under capitalism, why don’t I move to Cuba or another country? I habitually point out I come to this website to read and learn about Cuba and write about the ills of capitalism to balance the one-sided propaganda designed to sell it, posted as comments.

    I’m doing exactly what Cubans writing in Havana Times are doing – staying and working for change in their country. Our two little capitalist propagandists, however, seem to have problems with this.

  • September 1, 2012 at 8:36 am


    If life in capitalist Toronto is as bad as you say, when are you moving to Cuba?

  • August 31, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    I used to post in this blog pretty often, but after while I just got tired to read the same comunist propaganda day after day…surprisingly coming from the same few people that are today living in a capitalism system, does not anyone find that odd! Is quite simple, if you dont like and do not support your country capitalism system please do yourself a favor and leave, instead of continuing crying about it. Obviously you are a comunist so perhaps you can exile in cuba, china, north korea, etc…take your pick and I guess be happy. It does not matter how much experience, talent, courage or well updated google fanatic you are if your replay against the US comes while living under the same country…Why? Because it’s difficult to imagine such rats loving the feeding but not sharing the cheese.

  • August 31, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    ‘Griffin” as usual is compelled to bring to our attention an HT item, hardly necessary one would think as most folks like me peruse all of the material on HT, insufficiencies in the new reforms, but he fails to note there are NO significant reforms being proposed to address the global economic disaster we are currently in as documented in Wikipedia.

    He also conveniently omits the last two paragraphs: “The urgency of institutional reforms is crucial,” said De Miranda, who proposes issuing new commercial and labor codes, as well as new laws relating to taxes, banking, housing and foreign investment, and making transactions more flexible. De Miranda, a university professor in Colombia, added his views to those of five other Cuban-born economists in this book being promoted on the online edition of the magazine.”

    So the news item is really a constructive piece offered by a Columbian professor and five Cuban economists.

    Just business as usual posted by a notorious propagandist. Be aware.

    ‘Griffin’ asks if the Occupy Movement got “the whole apparatus of police state repression, to truly appreciate what the Cuban people endure.” He of course is not really interested, only looking for an excuse to demonise the Cuban government.

    We got what was necessary to break up the Occupy camp by force. It took place at night as is customary with police actions here. The police came in buses and other vehicles.

    Riot gear, also customary, was not used this time. There was a great deal of media attention that guaranteed they would be on their best behavior. Their very ugly performance during the recent G20 protests in Toronto where beatings, police charges in full riot gear, the use of pepper spray and massive arrests took place with some notoriety also helped.

    When states use force to thwart popular protests, there’s not much to choose from. I don’t think Torontonians who participated in these demonstrations would be unduly surprised by tactics used in Cuba. It’s same old, same old, when governments utilise forces supposedly created to help them to repress popular dissent. It’s an old principle – power always does what it can do to maintain its power.

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