Luis Rondon Paz
HAVANA TIMES — Last Friday, I was hanging onto every word the new US president said. Personally-speaking, I believe his speech was a well-orchestrated political show to win over the extreme Right of this country which is mainly concentrated in Miami.
I questioned, for a few moments, whether what I was seeing was actually real, I couldn’t get how a power which is so masterful with communication, could be so clumsy. Ah! It isn’t the country, its Donald Trump’s administration. Which has proven that it doesn’t have the faintest idea about what is going on in Cuba, how the Cuban people get by, and how much they suffer as a result of the economic and financial Blockade.
Incidentally, with this setback in relations between the two nations, it is the current regime in force here in Cuba that continues to benefit and not the people.
I can’t get my head around how the speech of one of the richest businessmen in the United States can be so lacking in knowledge of everyday Cuban reality.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s true that human rights are being violated in Cuba which Mr. Trump pointed out, and it’s typical that this happens in a militarized country which has imported a political ideology from the old European powers during the Second World War.
This is a weakness for the Cuban people and a great opportunity that many countries are using to establish their business in Cuba. Especially as the island is already a factory of cheap labor and unfortunately this is accepted by its people, out of fear and ignorance, as a stance which is confused between opportunism, conformity and selfishness due to the current national situation.
I think that it’s the perfect place for any capitalist business person to plant their empire. They don’t need to worry about ensuring basic conditions for their employees’ well being.
But anyhow, going back to Trump, who are really affected by this setback?
It’s mainly the Cuban people and the US tourist.
A person who lives in the United States and travels to Cuba protected by the people-to-people category, has the privilege of being able to enter into direct contact with another kind of Cuban, the Cuban entrepreneur, and they stay in private family homes and can get an idea about how a part of Cuban society really lives. And the most important thing here is that their money stays in the hands of these families and doesn’t go directly to the Cuban government.
When the Trump administration restricted these visits to only being allowed in groups, he is depriving many people of work who are making a living as “guides” under the US people-to-people category. And to work with groups in Cuba, you need to be a member of a job center in most cases, which by the way, are state-owned.
Now let me point out a key issue:
Individual empowerment is being nearly 100% lost, one of the points that the former president highlighted about how change could be brought about in Cuba from within. When a person from the United States enters into direct contact with a Cuban, stays in their home, gets to know their family, their lifestyle, it’s a fact that they will learn that Cuban society isn’t what the mass media have portrayed and propagated for decades, and they will learn to value the great wealth of values the Cuban people have. They will also identify their true weaknesses and they will understand that the embargo is a business which only those in power on both sides of the Florida Strait benefit from.
From a Cuban’s perspective, they have the opportunity to see that not all US citizens are insensitive, trivial and cold; they will learn about other realities firsthand, other cultures which don’t have a reason to destroy the Cuban people’s values.
It’s a source of direct work for those who work in the alternative tourism sector, as well as in transport, art in its many forms, the small tobacco company and other areas of farming, construction, the food industry, as well as helping people who don’t have medicines, one of the most sensitive issues for the ordinary Cuban.
Ahh! And it’s Cubans who buy at hard currency stores that exist in Cuba, except for the odd tourist who goes to buy a bottle of water.
When people have these problems half-resolved, they begin to think about other things, their ambition is no longer to work to eat, they begin to question the many things that don’t work in their country, to the point where they begin to actively engage so as to change this reality. This is called empowerment; this is called individual transformation to push forward collective change.
Unfortunately, Trump’s new policy goes against all of this.
Now, I ask again. Who is this new US policy really helping?