Who Will Come Out on Top? Uncle Sam or Authoritarian China?

Por Lynn Cruz

HAVANA TIMES – I recently watched the movie “Kursk” (The Command) by Danish film director Thomas Vinterberg. It is named after the Russian submarine that it tells the story of. Once again, the Russians made the same mistakes they did during the Chernobyl disaster, but this time in 1994: not listening to the experts or respecting their competition. Survivors died as a result of officials’ incompetence. In 1991, the socialist system collapsed in this country, but the top-down mindset was never overcome.

Democracy has never existed in Cuba, just like it hasn’t in Russia. Cubans might talk about international politics fluently and in a detached manner, but when it comes for us to analyze our own conflict, the trauma of totalitarianism and dictatorships quickly rears its ugly head. This is mainly a result of us only very briefly flirting with liberalism during the Republic. The 1940 Constitution was considered progressive for its time. What would we have become if it were instated? The answer to this question might not lie here on the island nor on the other side of the Florida Straight.

There is a notable difference between being a Cuban living on the island and a Cuban from the US. It might seem trivial at first, but when people discuss our situation, many simply forget that those of us living here are human beings. Who invented Communism? Who decided to put it into practice? Who gave Fidel Castro power? All of these realities existed a long time ago, a long time before I was even born.

On the other hand, it’s inconceivable to think that the US government’s decisions don’t determine Cuba’s fate. In addition to talking a great deal, Castro didn’t do anything to free us from Imperialism’s clutches. It has been proven that countries suffering economic warfare have come out stronger, such as Vietnam. However, our country depends more and more upon the US government, every day. 

Add to that the fact that Cuba’s emigre community play a decisive role in US elections. What do I mean by that? Well, that if Florida wanted to, they could improve relations with the Cuban government. What is the root cause of all of this drama? An outstanding debt between these two forces, which is why I don’t sympathize with either side.

The Helms-Burton Act appeared in 1996, with the objective of settling the hot issue of property, during Cuba’s nationalization process. Which is to say, that this law is nothing but a negotiation. So, what’s the problem? Aren’t they fining foreign companies who exploited land on the island? Why are they hellbent on adding sanctions? If Florida’s politicians really wanted the best for the Cuban people, it would start by taking the first step and getting involved, instead of making the conflict drag on forever. I don’t mean to say this will be easy, but I find it hard to believe that the Cuban dictatorship is solely to blame for these divisions.

What do they want to prove? That the Cuban regime is incapable of producing a sweet potato for every one of its citizens every day? Everybody knows that. However, the more they pressure the US government, the more they push us towards China. The so-called Asian giant has been entering Latin America stealthily. You have to know how to lose in politics. Leaving Fidel Castro without opposition on the island gave him the power the Soviets once had, then Venezuela, and now his heirs are strengthening alliances with Xi Jinping.

New social control measures that the Cuban regime has been trying out for some time now, are similar to those that exist in China’s authoritarian Confucianism, such as Decree-Laws 373 (about the content of audiovisual production), 370 (about freedom of the press) and 349 (about artistic creation).

Right now, repression, harassment, fines against independent journalists, Youtubers, influencers, and even its own people when they use their cellphones to complain using images to denounce the stifling situation we are living in, have been ramped up. On the one hand, there’s the health crisis, and on the other, a devastating shortage of basic essentials such as food, medicine and personal hygiene items.

Maybe the main reason I am writing this article is because of comments on Facebook from many Cubans who thank Trump. They are referring to the 1,200 USD cheque that the US Department of State has given each of its citizens, to compensate for the economic hardship caused by COVID-19 in the country. It just so happens that the sum of public funds now carry his name, just like his buildings do. 

So, Cubans who don’t see any problem with Trump being a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic president, who builds his autocracy day in and day out, are criticizing authoritarianism when it’s on the Left, but applaud the Right when the lack of the US leader’s common sense has signed the death sentence for thousands of people, because he belittled the real threat Coronavirus posed.

These Cubans make the word “democracy” (which they applaud so) empty and without any meaning both in Florida’s “exile” community, as well as for those who rule here on the island and are heading towards China’s model.

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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.

Lynn Cruz has 100 posts and counting. See all posts by Lynn Cruz

13 thoughts on “Who Will Come Out on Top? Uncle Sam or Authoritarian China?

  • There is a simple answer to your question Dave. Repression!
    The freedom that was gained for Eastern Europe was a consequence of the implosion within Russia itself and the subjugated countries led by Poland, then rose in protest with many citizens taking the opportunity to flee westward.
    The Berlin Wall although much written discussed and prominent because of its locality, was only a tiny part of the Russian system of enclosure. The Iron Curtain stretched across the whole of Europe, from the Baltic in the north, to the Black Sea in the south. Having seen it, I can describe it. 200 metres of ploughed land with 15′ high barbed wire walls on either side, the ploughed (plowed in American English) land contained personnel land mines. Every kilometre there was a watch tower with a guard at the top having a sub-machine gun. At the foot of each tower, two German Shepherd dogs. When the Iron Curtain came to a lake – for example the five km wide Neuseidlersee in Austria, the barbed wire continued with the towers very kilometre. Over the years, many thousands died on the wire in their endeavors to escape communism and achieve freedom.
    The Cuban communist regime Dave, has learned from the Eastern European experience. It is all too aware that any relaxation of the repression would lead to significant problems. In addition, it has the advantage of being an island with no possibility of infiltration or aid by neighbours. One of the conditions of the withdrawal by Khrushchev of the nuclear weapons (so beloved by Fidel who urged a first strike upon the US) was that the US would not militarily intervene in Cuba. Do not underestimate the underlying fear in Cuba. People are loath to hold a conversation about the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), out of fear.
    I do not belittle your friends view that it was they, the people of East Germany who caused the fall of the Berlin Wall, but it was but one card in the collapsing pack. I recall the joy of the East Berliners dancing on the wall and tearing it down with bare hands. Freedom had been beckoning them for over forty years and at long last they possessed it.

  • I have friends who are from what used to be called “East Germany.” They tell me what brought the fall of the Berlin Wall were two things: Protests during the day. Prayers at night. The latter is really hard to measure, so I’ll focus my comments on the protests. The protestors (my friends and literally thousands of others like them) had a united message. They were united in that they all wanted change and they knew the could not rely on their government to make the changes the people hoped for. The people had to stand up, demand change, and protest for that change. Has this happened ever happened in Cuba? Is there a “united voice” wanting and demanding change? Most of the Cubans I have met (those living on the island) are unhappy with their current state of affairs and want change. They want freedom of assembly. They want free speech. They want freedom of the press. They want freedom of religion. They want to start their own businesses. If so many on Cuba want change, what keeps them from uniting and protesting for change?

  • Just a slight adjustment Brad. The implosion of the Soviet Empire commenced in Russia, as my late *father told me in 1952, “We are doing a holding operation, eventually like having a rotten apple in a barrel, Russia will rot from within.” That is what it did. The various uprisings in the occupied countries of Eastern Europe – perhaps with the exception of Poland, followed the implosion, but did not create it. Maybe Gorbachev was the rotten apple with Yeltsin then seizing the advantage, but Russia did not implode as a consequence of a mass revolt by others, they seized upon the opportunity which was prevented. The two major revolts were Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

    * As longer term readers will recall, I disclosed in the past that my father was Head of Station for MI6 (British Secret Intelligence Service) in Vienna, arriving there in May 1945, immediately following it falling to the Russians and he died there as a very old man in 1997. The British agents in the countries south of Poland in Eastern Europe reported to him. Brave people, for if caught they were shot. I met some of them.

  • Exactly Carlyle no criticism or alternative political parties are allowed or you are jailed, harassed, lose your job or worse.
    It ruffles feathers but it’s based on criminality all tyrannies are, and they have zero interest in it coming to an end. A mass revolt like in Eastern Europe’s former communist regimes is the Cubans only chance.

  • Your final sentence is very interesting Brad, but perhaps not understandable for communists. In their view, the uprisings in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and later other “Eastern Bloc” countries were by “counter-revolutionary” exploiters. The “masses” only revolt against the oppression of the Bourgeois. Hence Fidel Castro responded in criticizing those who led what you describe as revolts in Eastern Europe:

    “certain measures were taken such as the establishment of a bourgeois form of freedom of the press. This means the counter-revolution and the exploiters, the very enemies of socialism, were granted the right to speak and write freely against socialism.”

    There can be no clearer description of communist (socialismo) thought. Any form of criticism of their system must not be permitted! Freedom of the press is anathema! Those who lead opposition to communism (socialismo) are “exploiters”! On it goes, the voice of oppression!

  • Cubans should be able to have any system they want it’s their country.
    They can look to some Latin American democracies or European democracies and study each system.
    Canada and Australia have strong democratic principals.
    A nationwide referendum could be done after a close study of numerous countries worldwide.

    The Chinese model is just another authoritarian communist party with no opposition it’s certainly no answer.
    Your Cuban communist regime has no interest in changing.
    The communists only fell in Eastern Europe when the masses had revolts against the regimes.

  • I can fully concur with your sentiments regarding trying to understand what the final outcome will be if Cuba fully embraces, or China imposes, Chinese methods of economy and culture into Cuban society.

    Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution tried to impose and significantly influence Russian methods of economy and culture unto Cuban society to spite the Americans and the results are what you are living with today. Not nice.

    I totally agree how your sentiments would stir you towards embracing Spanish culture. After all, the lingua franca of both countries, Spanish, is one every Cuban child first learns to speak and mimic (hand gestures) and many, many Cubans can trace their historical ancestry to Spain. The first commonality that binds any peoples together and to feel comfortable with one another is language.

    In my Cuban travels, I have not met any born and raised Cuban who has embraced the Chinese language or show any willingness to study or learn it in the future. They say it is so unfavorably foreign. The Russian language was imposed in schools by the Castro regime and certainly many intellectuals learned it and used it, but the ordinary Cuban on street found it foreign as it should be to them.

    Russian was imposed and when governments impose directives on citizens they tend to rebel or at least just pretend to abide. It usually does not turn out well. Russians in terms of disposition tend to be, cold (maybe it’s their climate?), quiet, and expressionless; on the other hand, Cubans are warm, embracing, loud, dancers, merry makers. Perhaps a stereotype – diametrically in opposition- but that is my impression.

    It is also fully understandable why you would also feel a great affinity to American culture. As a Canadian, like you living next door to a comprehensive country like the United States, its culture overflows into our nations flawlessly through a common language – English – which is taught in Cuban elementary schools and historically. Every Cuban kid wants to learn English for whatever reason. As you know prior to the Revolution most of the island was owned by Americans, their culture – film, movies, T.V., sports, etc., all influenced life on the island, not necessarily in a positive way but influence the Americans did have.

    Cuba and its people definitely have a dilemma to deal with moving forward into the future. Let history, its failures and successes, be your guide to triumphal and meaningful change you can live with.

  • Thanks so much for your comments. They are very revealing to me and at the same time disturbing. We are involved in so many cultures, and so different from the Chinese culture. I don’t know how to deal with this absurd imposition. I fell close to the Spanish culture and in a way to an American culture but I can’t understand the Russian behavior or the Chinese behavior, because I don’t speak their languages and most of the Cuban people either. It’s weird.

  • Dick, as I have written repeatedly, China is practicing economic colonialism, and in the western hemisphere Cuba is its main target. The Chinese debt load is also building up in many other countries. Russia simply doesn’t have the resources to replace China. Putin, may supply the odd railway engine or two and send a battleship to visit, but China now is far and away the biggest importer into Cuba at 21%. Spain actually comes next at 12% (which includes for my pleasure Seville orange marmalade and beer), then comes Germany (great beer) the US (Tyson frozen chicken and canned veggies), Italy (spaghetti), Canada, Brazil (frozen Ostrich legs), Mexico (more beer), France (Peugeot vans for ETECSA), Vietnam (low grade rice for the permuta) and surprisingly Venezuela down to a mere 2.9% following the difficulty in managing to supply oil by barter in exchange for educational and medical services.
    Thinking Cubans and there are many, are I think well aware of the threat of China but being under a dictatorship are powerless. For the Castro regime it is however a blessing in supplying much on credit – (Yutong buses, Geely cars) and replacing more recently Venezuela and prior to that Russia as the Marxist ‘sugar daddy’.

  • Lynn,

    If you are on the road to having a close relationship with China, you and all Cubans should beware and ask what life will be like when China owns Cuba?

    You might be much better off patching up and improving your relationship with Russia.

    Cape Coral

  • The big old Democracy question – is it a case of ‘either you’ve got it or you ain’t’ ?
    Or is a case of ‘to what extent do you have it’ ?
    Is trump the result of democracy or is he the symptom of a failure of democracy ?
    Are people in the USA generally happier than people in China or Vietnam due to being led to believe that they have lots of this stuff they call ‘democracy’ ?

    The real difference between the USA, China, Vietnam and Cuba is not necessarily a question of ‘democracy’. It is a question of Capitalism.
    The USA is the world’s biggest capitalist economy (there is no problem in producing wealth but perhaps a problem in the lack of distribution of wealth).
    China and Vietnam have successfully embraced capitalist processes. They have, to an extent, made capitalism work for them.
    Cuba is lagging way behind. It’s attempts at incorporating capitalist processes are clumsy and are not producing results.

    ‘Who will come out on top Uncle Sam or Authoritarian China ?’
    China will overtake the USA, in terms of economy, at some point this century according to most economic analysts.

  • “It has been proven that countries suffering economic warfare have come out stronger, such as Vietnam.”

    I agree.

    You could have gone even further with Vietnam by stating countries suffering exhaustive military warfare have come out stronger.

    History demonstrates how Vietnam was practically annihilated from the air with bombs and napalm raining down daily destroying huge portions of arable land making it unsuitable for survival. The death toll unspeakable.

    Nevertheless, here we are today; Vietnam is able to feed its people and export surplus agricultural products. It is from all accounts a success story in Southeast Asia. As you correctly state countries, some not all, who do suffer whatever calamity can come out the other side successfully.

    Vietnam practices a political duopoly: Communism from party politicians in government but down to earth capitalism for the ordinary Vietnamese who wants to practice that form of economy. Party politicians are not going to complain as long as there is money to be made, citizens content and law abiding, and therefore no threat to their perceived authoritarian regime.

  • Your assessment is correct Lynn, it isn’t a question of believing in or supporting either the Castro regime, or Donald Trump. It is possible to detest both.
    I wonder how many of your generation of Cubans (and contributors to HT) have actually read the US Cuban Democracy Act which introduced the embargo sixty years ago? How many would actually agree or disagree with the conditions laid down for lifting the embargo? Was the concept of introducing free open multi-party elections wrong?
    I would be the first to agree that the embargo was however a dismal failure in its purpose, and ought to have been lifted following the implosion of the Soviet Empire and subsequent liberation of thirteen countries being held in thrall. Doing so would have removed the excuse used by the Castro regime that every problem stems from the embargo rather than from their own incompetence.
    When the UN re-opens, Bruno Rodriguez will trot out the same old weary resolution, knowing full well that it is for naught. China will continue its policy of financial colonialism by stealth – 21% of Cuba’s imports now come from that country, largely on credit and the debt (and China’s control) grows.
    If only the cry of: “tear down this wall Mr. Gorbachev” could have been equaled with an equally successful one of: “Give the people of Cuba the opportunity to choose their own government in an open free multi-party election Mr. Castro.”
    Thanks for the provocative article.

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