By Lynn Cruz
HAVANA TIMES – Amidst the socio-political crisis that is unfolding in Venezuela, after the masses took to the streets protesting for their freedom, a meteorological event (tornado) has laid waste to several Havana neighborhoods.
Feeling helpless as they watch people’s misery increase hundred-fold and the State’s insignificant response (not proposing any concrete plan to repair damaged areas), Cubans have taken to social media and their debates catch your attention as they show their solidarity and are creating spontaneous assistance groups.
Self-employed business-owners are cooking up free menus for those affected, while the government is only offering discounted food items. I don’t believe that in less than a month before the population’s vote on the so-called constitutional reform project it is in the State’s best interests to adopt such unpopular measures, like not supporting those who have lost their homes, for example.
Right now, a housing program would be the response that is needed, which even the affected can take part in, like they used to back in the days of the so-called “micro-brigades”. Instead, the government is talking about selling building materials, about loans, in a country where monthly incomes aren’t even enough to put food on the table.
So, is the Cuban government completely broke? If that’s the case, who is responsible? A government who has had 60 years in power just to prove its own incompetence.
The post-tornado landscape is extremely bleak. Many Cubans lost everything. Young people, artists, journalists have come to their aid with donations collected among themselves. Cubans living abroad, who have a decisive role in the Cuban economy because of all the money they send their relatives in remittances, want to help out. They want to be present in their country, even if it’s just sending suitcases full of things to those affected.
Of course, a system that holds totalitarian control over every aspect of social, cultural, professional, political life, won’t recognize any free gesture. This will lead to chaos, no doubt, and as the government is already well aware, Cubans are losing their fear, a fear which has paralyzed Cuban society for so long.
I remember that when the play Los Enemigos del Pueblo was censored, while we were coming to heads with State Security agents and the police because they were trying to stop us from putting on the performance at the Casa Galeria El Circulo, Luis Trapaga’s (painter and owner of this space) neighbors invited us to put on the play in their living rooms.
That was an eye-opening experience and completely inconceivable at another time when neighbors (probably in a different situation and encouraged by the “revolutionary” cause), would have called us worms or would have carried out an act of repudiation. At that time, it had been a whole year since Fidel Castro had passed away.
That’s why the government is now the one who is afraid. They know that the Cuban people were loyal Fidel supporters. But, how Fidel managed to do this and even export this economic model (which had failed in 1991) is still beyond me. He was clearly a wizard in politics and knew how to handle his anti-Imperialism discourse really well, which won him supporters all over the world.
Everybody knows that what happened here was just a copy of something that happened somewhere else. It was expected that if Eastern Europe collapsed, then the mutant social experiment in Spanish-speaking America would also end.
Venezuela shared this experiment with Cuba and implemented Chavismo. The experience passed down by Castrismo underpinned the replacement of Chavez by Maduro, but Venezuela isn’t an island, nor does it have nearly 11 million inhabitants, nor did all of the upper middle class and the wealthy flee. There has always been political opposition.
Cuba’s problem is that any move made by the opposition has been easily crushed, as the ruling classes handed the island to Fidel Castro after the Revolution triumphed in 1959, but this is where today’s paradox lies. Today, when the Cuban government is desperately crying out for: “Our Socialism”, they in fact mean: “Our Autocratic Leadership”. So, can a land really survive without its Commander?