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 6, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I WISH for a free and democratic Cuba. Nothing more and nothing less.

  • May 6, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Here is but one of the many areas where we disagree; I do not believe that the US embargo causes misery for the Cuban people. The Castros cause this misery and have the power to alleviate it.

  • May 6, 2014 at 10:48 am

    What is your point? That life is tough in Jamaica too? OK, you win. But as you said, this is Havana Times so before you begin to wax nostalgic about your life in (insert poor country here) and how tough things are there as well, calm yourself. Jamaica’s problems are real but they are not caused by a brutal dictatorship unable to see beyond their own survival. For Cuba, among its many problems, the Castro regime is at the top of the list.

  • May 6, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Your response to my fact-filled and lengthy post was noticeably short on refutations of specific pieces of information .
    Feel free to correct my errors of fact IF you are capable of doing so .
    Otherwise : as Christopher Hitchens would say: “That which can be asserted without evidence can likewise be dismissed without evidence. ”
    You are herewith dismissed.

  • May 6, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I realize how inconvenient a point the triple rate of Jamaican emigres is for you but I’ve spent a great deal of time in Jamaica since 1980 and lived side-by-side with mostly poor working class people and farmers .
    That country has gone steadily into decline since the U.S. intervention against Michael Manley in the late 70s and early 80s .
    The schools are dreadful and the population is hugely FUNCTIONALLY illiterate . Yes they may know the alphabet and numbers but they generally don’t read as a means of entertainment and are grossly under-educated for existence in today’s world.
    There are no jobs and no job creation . Wages are below what we would call a minimum wage.
    Life is very hard and the emigration figures for Jamaica are showing just how hard.
    Yes this is the Havana Times but Jamaica is just a hop across the strait from Cuba and Cuba and Jamaica had a history together before the U.S. intervention .
    The fact that the U.S. was successful in getting rid of Manley and his socialist ideas and thus had Jamaica’s neo-liberal capitalist economy continue is the main factor in the huge increase in Jamaican poverty, joblessness, low pay , no benefits etc that come with supporting the top people and not those at the bottom as neo-liberalism is constructed.
    SO,,, although these facts are inconvenient for you, they are pertinent in the big picture as to why people are leaving (socialist-style ) Cuba and (neo-liberal capitalist.)
    Jamaica in the respective numbers they are.
    Cuba’s socialist-style means of distribution alleviates the suffering of that island’s population while the absent social safety net in Jamaica does little to mitigate the suffering of the majority of the people there
    Hence, we have triple the percentage of Jamaicans fleeing their poverty than we have Cubans fleeing theirs
    AND….AND…as you claim, the Cubans live in a communist /Communist DICTATORSHIP hell-hole and have even more reasons for emigrating, don’t they ? f
    AND… they can just float into Florida and get citizenship and no Jamaican is allowed to do that.
    Yeah, sure. Tell me my facts don’t speak for themselves.

  • May 6, 2014 at 9:45 am

    There is no one so deaf as one who will not hear.
    The Cubans leave at one third the percentage of Jamaicans
    because things are not as tough in Cuba, day-to-day life is more bearable in Cuba than it is in Jamaica .
    Cuba has a far larger and comprehensive social safety net than does CAPITALIST Jamaica and the very poor do not suffer as they do in Jamaica to the point that they feel they must leave.
    Were the U.S. to end its war on the Cuban economy, that 3-1 ratio between Jamaica and Cuban emigres would only increase as conditions vastly improved in Cuba
    Your reference to the “socialist paradise” is just one more chunk of hypocrisy from you : the biggest supporter of the immiseration of the Cuban people and including your own close relatives, via the U.S. embargo.
    You are so far removed from your human instinct for mutual aid as to be a candidate for a recall of your human credentials.

  • May 6, 2014 at 9:36 am

    You’re not even being inaccurate. You’re lying.
    The reason you always support the embargo and call for its intensification is because you know that Cuba’s economy is surviving the attack.
    You lie when you say that the embargo is ineffective and that the “Castros” are all that is holding Cuba back .
    I say you lie because you and your friends at State KNOW that the embargo is achieving one of its purposes and that is to make the Cuban system look bad.
    You know it is creating dissent and protest inside Cuba and all that feeds the propaganda effort against Cuba .
    You rail against Cuba’s totalitarian system but retain a completely totalitarian belief set in your personal life.
    You wish for a capitalist Cuba and that is a wish for a brutally-enforced totalitarian economic system that a majority of Cubans still reject as unacceptable and worth dying to oppose.
    Physician, heal thyself.

  • May 6, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Cuba never installed a communist system .
    You evidently have no idea of what communism is but it is NOT Stalinism, Leninism, Maoism or Fidelism .
    It is totalitarian which means it cannot be communist.
    Were you up to snuff on your economics and philosophy , you’d know this. .
    Because you clearly exhibit a misunderstanding of communism to anyone cognizant of that philosophy , the credibility and effectiveness of your posts suffer .
    FYI , you could classify any democracy as a dictatorship of the majority, should you choose to do so, and you’d be quite accurate .
    The U.S. oligarchy is no less dictatorial than are Cuba’s government and economic systems but you wear blinders when it comes to looking at that..

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