The Reasons Behind the “Changes” in Cuba

Dariela Aquique

Havana street scene. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — As of 1960, Cuba was taken under the wing of the former Soviet Union and became one of its key bastions in the Cold War waged by the world’s two superpowers and their political and economic blocs. The overseas Communist satellite was fashioned in the image of its mentors: atheistic, totalitarian and other demons.

Hoping to export Marxist ideology to other parts of the hemisphere, the island sent doctors and teachers to countries around the continent in order to secure their sympathy and gratitude, while at the same time sending troops and military advisors to different guerrilla movements.

The death of Che Guevara and the defeat of many of these guerrilla movements, the coup d’états and military dictatorships installed across Latin America, the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua (Feb. 1990) and the peace accords of 1989, served to undermine Cuba’s efforts to propagate its political model.

Also in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Two years later, the Soviet Union collapsed. With the fall of State socialism and the rise of neoliberalism, the moderation of the capitalist economy seemed the only viable option.

That, however, presupposed hasty changes to the country’s political system and, as such, constituted a threat to the island’s totalitarian regime. Despite this, the Cuban government, faced with an economic crisis, had no choice but to trace new strategies and introduced a number of market-oriented reforms, such as the development of the tourism industry, the legalization of the dollar, the authorization of self-employment and foreign investment.

These measures were implemented on a small scale and resulted in a degree of economic growth that was not enough to lift the ruined national economy off the ground. They did, however, serve to keep the system, which has always favored a centralized State economy, from collapsing.

At the close of the last century, Left and Center-Left parties suddenly became popular and came to power in some countries. Hugo Chavez, a disciple of the Castro, became the president of Venezuela and a new patron of the island’s government (which it supplied with 100 thousand barrels of oil a day).

The region, however, was still haunted by prejudices against the communist specter, and people harbored many reservations vis-à-vis any version of Cuba’s absolutist political system.

The new Latin American Left claims to lay its bets on changes that involve a reduction of poverty and the gradual elimination of social inequality. There are even those who speak of a new, Christian socialism that respects democracy, can co-exist with the opposition and supports private enterprise.

Cuba had to get in step with the times and grow closer to its new friends. Medical and other types of internationalist missions served to strengthen diplomatic ties and consolidate financial and commercial collaboration and exchange treaties between the island and nearly all countries in the continent within the context of so-called “Latin American integration.”

To win over allies in the region and reduce existing ill-will, Cuba had to change in the eyes of world public opinion – it had to show itself more tolerant and inclusive. The Mariel Special Development Zone is an example of how the island has managed to take in more dividends.

These are the reasons behind the wave of disconcerting “changes” in Cuba, which are aimed at disguising the parasitic nature of the country’s economy as it adjusts itself to the new times, when, if you’re not open minded, you are simply left behind.

We are seeing a Cuba that has spread its legs to foreign investment, a Cuba now announcing it will make Internet available to everyone, which allows people to buy and sell houses and cars, go to hotels, travel without a permit and own a cell phone, all the while capitalizing on the enthusiasm over Latin American integration.

Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

32 thoughts on “The Reasons Behind the “Changes” in Cuba

  • May 1, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Again, you’ve missed the point. If you are right that there is no difference between the immigration environment in Cuba and those other neighboring countries, then the reason for the Cuban revolution is lost. The paradise created by Castro-style socialism must be a lie and the sacrifices made by the Cuban people to sustain the revolution were for nothing.

  • May 1, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    …I can see him typing away in his basement and a voice calling down, “time for dinner Johnny”. ….”Ah Ma! Leave me alone!”, he replies. Can’t ya see I’m busy here!”. “I got these capitalists whormongers on the run!”

  • May 1, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Only one thing is certain…you’re full of resentment. But your resentment should be directed towards the rightful owners of the problem they helped create over 5 decades ago. Fidel initially asked the US for their help after he threw out the puppet dictator the US government had put in power in Cuba. But he was snubbed by the US government because he refused to be their new puppet. The US has always been responsible for the mess…they have just always found it more convenient to blame the Castros because the Cuban government has refused to cowtow to American imperialism. Cuba now poses no threat to America what so ever, and yet they are treated like a terrorist state and held hostage to America’s long-standing resentment for standing up for themselves in the face of American tyranny.

    I’m happy you were able to bring your family to the US to realize a different life for yourselves. That’s wonderful. I’m sure that all Cubans would love to have that life too. But don’t ever forget that the US government is responsible for creating the mess. They also have the ability to help end it by normalizing relations with the Cuban government immediately. But America’s resentment runs deep. And so does yours…alas, conveniently misdirected of course.

  • May 1, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    You should get out of your basement once in a while an visit the Bed-Sty neighborhood in New York City. You will meet scores of well-educated Jamaicans who travel back and forth to their native Jamaica with relative ease. Beachfront homes everywhere in the world are for a privileged few and Jamaica is no exception. You are, not surprisingly, missing the point. Because Jamaicans have always been free to travel, it is no surprise that they would choose to migrate to the US in large numbers. So what? It is this migration to the US that has made the US great! Here is the point: Castro-supporters and US-haters alike love to extol the virtues of Cuba ad nauseum. If Cuba were the paradise that you and other Castro sycophants would have us believe, then there would be no reason for the debilitating outmigration of Cubans. Comparing Cuba to Jamaica is pointless. This blog is HavanaTimes and the issue is Cuba, not Jamaica.

  • May 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Really? …Cubans understand the government is doing the best they can? Ohh poor baby. Well buster, I’m Cuban, and I’m here to tell you that you’re full of it! The million plus who have escaped Cuba say you’re full of it!. The rest of my family, brought over one by one over the span of a decade, say you’re full of it! And the thousands upon thousands who risk their lives to escape your Cuban paradise, on rickety rafts (and who’s actions speak much more eloquently anything I can say), say you’re full of it!

  • May 1, 2014 at 11:08 am

    ” I have stayed at his Jamaican beachfront home near Ochie…”
    Damned few Jamaicans become doctors or move from poverty to the middle class.
    Most have never been to Ochie’s exclusive beaches and resorts much less own a second home at the water.
    I have spent considerable time in Jamaica and with the poorer people of that country .
    Once these poorer people get to the U.S. or Switzerland as is the case for two Jamaican men friends, they do not make but the very rare ( and expensive ) trip home having found a far better place to make a living . My building contractor does go back and forth from Baltimore to Jamaica but again, his limited education limits his earning abilities and his trips are infrequent .
    The Jamaican school system is deplorable and huge numbers of Jamaicans are functionally illiterate.
    As a result Jamaican migrants are at a considerable disadvantage in the industrialized countries they migrate to when it comes to finding other than subsistence wages.
    Jamaica is a very highly indebted nation, there are few opportunities to elevate oneself financially and the social safety net is a mass of holes.
    That is why the rate of emigration to the U.S. from Jamaica is triple that of Cubans.
    That is w

  • May 1, 2014 at 10:56 am

    It is not the Cuban government that is holding up Cubans from going to the U.S. , it is the U.S.
    In case you did not know it , there is an agreement of sorts between the U.S. and Cuba that allows just so many Cubans to legally enter the U.S. each year .
    This is what they do with all countries.
    However a Cuban applying to the U.S. Interests Section for legal emigration must pay a huge sum of money ( for a Cuban worker) and then wait EIGHTEEN months before hearing that they are accepted.
    A huge percentage are rejected just as are a great number of Jamaicans, Haitians etc.
    The Cuban government, in fact, just reduced the fees and paperwork that a Cuban must submit to emigrate.
    So you don’t know what you are talking about.
    Now to the really big lie in your post.
    A busload of Cubans ran down and killed a Cuban guard at the Peruvian embassy and claimed asylum once inside.
    In contravention to all other history of embassies in Havana NONE OF WHOM RECOGNIZED POLITICAL OPPRESSION IN CUBA, , the Peruvians granted asylum to the busload.
    In the weeks that followed the Cubans fed and maintained the health of those Cubans inside the embassy grounds.
    That reversal of policy was fully intended to embarrass the Cuban revolution and Fidel said that anyone who wanted to leave could .
    Simultaneously, the USA began a big “political prisoner” propaganda push to free Cubans held in prison .
    Fidel TOLD the USA and the world that those in prison were there because they were criminals such as every country has in their prisons and few were what could be considered political prisoners. Lots of thieves, rapists , the usual .
    The U.S. INSISTED that all Cubans in prison were political prisoners and so Fidel said ” If you’ll take them, we’ll let them go ” ( paraphrased) .
    The U.S. initially agreed, the Cubans let out all the prisoners and then the U.S. reneged on the deal .
    As a result , there was a mini-crime wave in Cuba created by these released criminals and it was then that Fidel declared the port of Mariel open to all craft coming from Florida to pick up friends and relatives.
    Of course, the Cuban authorities rounded up all the released prisoners and put THEM on any and every boat BEFORE any friends or relatives and thus got rid of most of the criminals they had in jail and the U.S. found to their chagrin that a huge percentage of these people WERE , in fact, hardened criminals .
    To lend a little perspective to your figures, during each violent revolution throughout history, some ten percent of such societies in upheaval leave the country.
    Cuba’s emigration fits easily in that general rule.
    Lastly, were any and all boats sent to either Haiti, Jamaica, DR etc and were able to bring all they could carry to the U.S. , those countries would empty out overnight as well.


  • May 1, 2014 at 5:52 am

    “Cubans know what and WHO is wrong with Cuba.”

    You see, that’s the reason why you’ll never be able to see the forest for the trees. Cubans understand that the government is doing the best they can under the circumstances (and I admit, their best hasn’t been that great)…but it’s been necessary and understandable given their combined situation. It’s been necessary to protect their nation from a return to American dominance and the loss of their sovereignty as a nation. But end the embargo, normalize relations, acknowledge their right to exist, and the war will effectively be over. The Cuban government will relax a myriad of restrictions that they’ve needed to implement and uphold during the many years of war-time siege brought about by your government. Your government’s hands are just as dirty, and you can’t pin the blame on the Cuban government entirely until you also first wash up.

    And just so that we’re clear, I’m Switzerland. I believe in allowing the Cuban government and the Cuban people to decide the fate of their nation…without any outside interference of any kind. If I lean one way more than another, it’s to disgrace the US government for their appalling interventionist policies around the world…but especially with regards to Cuba. If you continue to support your government’s moronic policies in this capacity, then I have a problem with you too.

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