The Far-Left and Far-Right against Cuban Civil Society

By Lynn Cruz

HAVANA TIMES – If a Cuban living in Cuba harshly criticizes the Government, they are considered a counter-revolutionary. If they also target the US, many of their supporters begin to look at them suspiciously. They might even insult you for being State Security, and even label you a Communist.

The answer to this enigma lies in both of these attitudes. With Barack Obama and Raul Castro’s speeches back in March 2016, a stampede of US tourists came filling hostels, hotels, and even garages turned into rental apartments on the island. Chanel, Hollywood and the Rolling Stones all passed through here.

The US government made Cuba trendy. People became filled with hope. Taxi drivers, craftsmen and even popsicle sellers came out winning. They wiped away 30 years of Sovietism, five years of the Special Period, 17 years of Chavism and 57 years since the beginning of the war Fidel Castro had waged against the US, when he formed an alliance with the collapsed Soviet Bloc.

However, all roads lead to the starting point. Imperialism was in Obama’s hands (at least that’s the way it seemed), on equal terms, with some demands about exchanging political prisoners, the possibility of a dialogue between some civil society groups, to put this apartheid to rest.

The result was a shuffle back and forth, one step forward and one step back as we say here in Cuba. It not only frustrated a small tractor producer, who wanted to set up an assembly plant in Cuba, or Nestle who wanted to negotiate with the private sector directly.

Independent artists also continued to be replaced by institutionalized ones. The old strategy of a smokescreen, of creating an alternative art that is still in line with the Cuban Communist Party’s foundations.

Criticizing in the established way, mentioning aspects of the system but without mentioning names, while Health and Education are still taboo subjects. Independent spaces continued under the watchful eye of the Central Committee’s Ideological Department.

The reality is that the rapprochement process also resulted in quite a few masks coming off within the elite’s own power circle. I remember that a rumor would go around, almost every week. Luxury restaurants closed their doors, such as El Litoral, Starbien, the latter belonging to a son of Abelardo Colome Ibarre, the former vice-president of the State Council and Council of Ministers.

Word had it that drug trafficking was the reason their businesses flopped. Then, that they had taken goods from the State Council’s reserves. The negotiation payment for shooting Fast and the Furious, was never cleared up. So, another minister was given the boot, the Culture minister. After giving the Sundance Institute’s delegation a warm welcome, they were then given the cold shoulder when they came back to the island.

I had never seen so much dividing up of companies, while power was being handed out. Palco was producing movies for TV and competing with RTV Comercial as if they were private companies, or were they already and we just hadn’t been told? A generation with a business mindset, Alejandro Castro’s generation, got the negotiations signed and sealed before speeches were made.

So, shortly after Obama’s visit to Cuba, Fidel was quick to express his disagreement and wrote: Brother Obama. This text appeared in official daily newspaper, Granma.

I must remind you that another democrat, James Carter and his dialogue strategies led to the 1980 crisis, which ended with beatings on the street and the Mariel exodus. 

Moving forward, Bill Clinton picked up where Carter left off, in the ‘90s. Fidel ordered two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft to be shot down. This was an organization whose mission was to rescue balseros (raft people) who were trying to leave Cuba. This event put the dialogue with the US government on hold again, because Clinton found himself forced to sign the Helms-Burton Act.

In the almost 4 years of the current president’s term at the White House, Donald Trump and his bull in a china store policy (like how the world became fragile in the face of the new Coronavirus), have only managed to turn up the heat on repression on the island. The Cuban government is cornered now. It has debts, it isn’t being given credit, so, it is coming down hard on all of its critics because this is a system that only wants to save itself.

It is upsetting to see how many Cubans support this suffocating policy. It means that Cubans abroad look at us with the same ice-cold stare the US government does. Like Machiavelli: “The end justifies the means.” However, nobody thought that something like this pandemic would happen in the same period of time. With the Cuban State without any money, those of us living on the island are even more vulnerable.

Why? Because Cuba is suffering under a totalitarian regime. We don’t have any freedom, which means we depend entirely upon government decisions. This means to say that you need the State to even receive humanitarian assistance.

Why has Trump increased sanctions? The existence of the US embargo is nearly as old as the Cuban Revolution itself, and we have seen how this only serves as an excuse for our government. Why is Senator Marco Rubio now saying it’s justified because of drug-trafficking? Is Venezuela the only reason? Who is really benefitting from this conflict? I really don’t believe that Cuban-American politicians would be so blasé, much less the US government.

Lynn Cruz

It's not art that imitates life, its life that imitates art," said Oscar Wilde. And art always goes a step further. I am an actress and writer. For me, art, especially writing, is a way of exorcising demons. It is something intimate. However, I decided to write journalism because I realized that I did not exist. In Cuba, only the people authorized by the government have the right to express themselves publicly. Havana Times is an example of coexistence within a democracy and since I consider myself a democrat, my dream is to integrate this publication’s philosophy into the reality of my country.

36 thoughts on “The Far-Left and Far-Right against Cuban Civil Society

  • W. My opposition to communism and to the Castro communist regime in Cuba has no relation whatever to any support for the policies of the USA and there is ample evidence that I have been a critic of their policies.

    I credited Barack Obama for his comment, because for Cubans it had significance. I won’t bother to delve into all the things that Mandela said following his release and election as President of South Africa, because the significant difference between Mandela and Castro was that Mandela both believed in and practiced democracy, but for Fidel Castro the freedom offered by democracy was anathema.

    I would also remind you of Mandela’s visit first to Canada following his release, and the role that Canadian PM Brian Mulroney (a Progressive Conservative) had in convincing Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to support embargo against the South African apartheid regime. They jointly certainly played a greater role in Mandela’s release than Fidel Castro, who as you know, was even opposed to freedom of speech and the rights of the individual.

    I am amazed that you endeavor to justify the dictatorship in Cuba and to support denial of human rights for its people as defined by the UN. It is support for the Castros by sycophants that sickens Cubans. I find it difficult to explain such support by those who shelter under democracy themselves, to Cubans when I am at home.

    Endeavors to link my views to those of the US, leaves a quandary! Do I, in response link your views to those of Mao, Stalin or Pol Pot?

  • Carlyle,
    Is this Mandela you speak of the same person who said this: ‘A source of inspiration to all freedom-loving peoples’ about Fidel Castro? And was not that a choice between “good and evil” the US made when it decided to support the apartheid government in South Africa at the time?

    It seem that both you and the US are focusing on proving how bad the Cuban government is. That alone simply will not do to bring forth any changes. You (and the US) will have to prove that the alternative is better, freer and more just. As the US remains as the driving force advocating change in Cuba it needs to prove that it is the “good” side that honestly is trying to bring freedom and democracy to Cuba. But the past and present blunders, crimes and double standard politics makes it hard for the US to be convincing, doesn’t it?

  • Carlyle,
    “no state has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatsoever, in the internal affairs of any other state.” – United Nations, A/RES/20/2131
    When Russia interfered in the US 2016 elections Dick Cheney went as far as saying it could be “considered as an act of war”. But the Cuban government should just meekly accept this violation of international law?

    Cuban state propaganda does indeed blame the US for everything. And they do have the easiest job, as the US is constantly breaking international law, supporting dictators and apartheid governments, involving itself in illegal wars, coups, mercenary operations and other interventions, while disregarding the well-being of its own people. With a lovely mix of ignorance and arrogance they get caught over and over again so the Cuban propaganda doesn’t even have to lie about it, just state universally recognized facts.

    But if one accepts the idea that the intentions of the US government indeed is to “stand on the side of those who want to be free”, one has to admit that there is a grave failure in conveying this idea to the peoples of the world. Most people of the world names the United States as the biggest threat to world peace, so it is apparent that somewhere along the way the US fails in presenting itself as the “good fighter for freedom, democracy and justice”. This also in democratic countries with free and fair media.

    So here is my question: What does the US do wrong, so that so many people grow to disprove of their policies, instead of embracing their freedom-loving agenda?

    And with all the mighty intelligence, political research and smart leaders and politicians, why do they keep making the same mistakes, that makes it so much easier for anti-american dictators to justify themselves? Wouldn’t a bit more “practice what you preach” approach be more efficient?

  • In your enthusiasm to belittle my response to W, which I continue to believe is correct and balanced, even declaring my political tendency Nick, you find it necessary to display yet again that determination to provide what you have previously described as a “balanced” view, when to all but the illiterate it is abundantly evident that you support to the extreme left of democratic socialism. There is no harm in that provided that you admit it rather than being bashful.

    I provided in response to W, a courteous explanatory response. Maybe Nick, you could provide your own response to his questions?

    As for your usual Good vs Evil phrase, I have clarified that whereas I recognize that there was need for another revolution in Cuba, and that Fidel Castro had the opportunity, similarly to Mandela and Gandhi, to enter the history books as the liberator of his people, he chose the power and control of a communist dictatorship. It was Fidel who had the choice between Good/Evil and it was he who chose the latter.
    Theoretically Nick, would you personally prefer to live under a non-democratic system? Opportunity beckons!

  • Mr MacD, in answer to VV’s question about whether the USA would permit free and fair democratic elections in Cuba you state that ‘yes the USA would want to intervene’
    The USA intervenes everywhere.
    When it comes round to your utopian democratic dreams Mr MacD, the USA always ‘intervenes’. They did so throughout the former Soviet Bloc countries.
    When is the penny gonna drop ?
    Whether it’s yer man-child trump or any other prevailing incumbent of The White House, they can choose to ‘intervene’. That is their prerogative isn’t it Mr MacD ?
    The oddball irony is that when it came to whether or not a narcissistic, mentally ill, screwball would be choosing which tv channels to view in that ol’ White House, them old Russians picked their moment to decisively intervene didn’t they ??

    And this is why your Good vs Evil, Democracy vs Non-Democracy theories start to fall totally flat doncha think?

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