Is There a Fix for Cuba?

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Photo: Yon Rey

HAVANA TIMES – To many Cuba appears to be in dire straits as if there was no solution to its chronic problems but at the same time it doesn’t die.

What we know as the “Revolution” was an armed victory in Cuba in 1959, with irrefutable popular support based on the promise of reinstating the 1940 Constitution. This would have meant democracy and rule of law, something we still need today because the work remains unfinished and instead improvement the country appears destroyed 60 years later.   

Let’s accept, hypothetically, that it was history that inevitably led Cuba to a rapprochement with the USSR and establishing Russian radical socialism on the island, taking refuge somewhat from the injured power (US), which didn’t accept the loss of a nearby area of important political and economic influence in the middle of the Cold War.

However, (if we are to follow this questionable line of reasoning), after more than half a century, it has become very clear that this decision blocked the path towards democracy and prosperity to one towards totalitarianism, political repression, economic disaster, hardship, migration, an ideological apartheid and cutting itself off from the world. Continuing on this same path has become a crime against humanity.

Today, we can definitely say that the situation in Cuba is a lot worse than it was in 1959. The country is in ruins and the system doesn’t even work to provide basic services. While the government that says it hates capitalism is the biggest capitalist in Cuban history, and doesn’t allow citizens to legally engage in free enterprise, not even to a small extent.

The Cuban people are at their wits’ end without transport, food shortages and without any hope of things getting better. From line to line and commotion to commotion, where people fight and even come to blows over a liter of cooking oil, a packet of detergent or a kilo of chicken.

What hope is there?

There is a political opposition movement that is advocating for democratic change, with different stripes depending on the position each group has. But divided and stigmatized, criminalized and repressed by the government. The worst thing is that the idea of winning and “wiping” out the Communists no matter what, prevails amongst them. They won’t accept any middle ground, or a negotiation, or dialogue, because there is so much bad blood after so much repression and forced exile.

Meanwhile, the government has absolutely no chance of getting the country back up off the ground. They have exhausted their ability to create hope about improvements (which have always been false), but they cheered people up for a short while.

The so-called “Guidelines” were the icing on the cake, the result of a national debate. A real let down, something which we could even laugh about if the consequences of this disgrace didn’t hurt so much. The system really is only surviving by clinging onto power and blaming the US embargo (which they call a blockade) and the opposition (which they call mercenaries) for their own incompetence.

For a long time now, all they have done is impede the change that Cuba needs, delaying our progress and trampling over our freedom. It seems that they will do this until our people manage to free themselves from the fierce social control they have on us via hardship and dependence.

The other thing that needs to happen is the Cuban people need to overcome the mental barriers, by some miracle, that stop them from advocating for the change Cuba needs, which is the best path forward. There’s no doubt about that. However, the reality is that nothing indicates that they will do this, even though this would in fact be achieving the Revolution’s own objective, with the Marti-style longing for a Cuba “with everyone and for everybody’s wellbeing. In short, the solution to our national crisis.

The divided political opposition can’t have a joint plan that is objective and it doesn’t look like they will be able to do this in the near future. Even though it plays an important and praiseworthy role as a display of resistance, it is very difficult that they will lead us to win a democracy in this current situation. Even more so if there is a strong sector that supports the embargo’s sanctions and a hypothetical military liberation intervention.

If we are to be realistic, there is only one possibility: that the peaceful opposition organizes with a plan that is in keeping with our reality, putting pressure on the government with the international community’s much-needed support; and is able to become a real option for the majority of Cubans and not just for a small radical group. In that way they could stir hope for success; and as a first option, it should always be willing to work with the government to map out the road towards democratic change, together.

I believe that a plan like this would be devastating for the official discourse and they would find themselves forced to negotiate and open democratic channels with immediate and exponential liberating results. However, the opposition needs to mature, put objectivity above passion and then, use their strength to pressure Diaz-Canel’s government to put his own slogan into practice: “think like a country”.

40 thoughts on “Is There a Fix for Cuba?

  • When at home in Cuba, I like most others, walk around daily. Whether it is walking our dog, going to the panderia to join those waiting for bread (Que es ultimo?), or to the centre of town, where one has to go to three different shops for canned goods, frozen products and supposedly dairy product (of which cheese is sometimes available), leaving ones shopping bag with “security” at each shop in succession.

    By taking such walks through the community over quite a lot of years, I observe a complete cross-section of society. On occasion if perchance purchases have been greater than normally available, I even take a bici-taxi going home – passing en-route the only evident productive business – that of a state controlled cigar rolling operation, with tobacco hauled in from distant Vinales – I can only assume that Pinar-del-Rio is unable to provide sufficient skilled workers.

    When I am next able to return home to Cuba, I shall search for and also enquire of others where I can find all the those changes and doubling of the private sector that Nick speaks of, as compared with the those which I have accurately described.

  • As I say Mr MacD, take a walk around and look at the businesses that have opened up. They’ve opened up only because the Government has taken the people that run them off the payroll?
    That’s some pretty big spin you’re putting on the situation.
    If you are determined to take a negative view, which you clearly do, then that’s up to you.
    If you prefer to be negative regarding the views and optimism about the future put forward by myself and others, then again that’s entirely up to you.
    I’m a natural optimist. And I’m optimistic about the future of Cuban 9 year olds. A lot more so than for 9 year olds in a great many other parts of the world.

  • Perhaps you haven’t noticed Nick that Raul Castro is alive and well, and still as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, in control. Puppet Diaz-Canel clarified that when appointed by Raul, by noting that major decisions would still be made by comrade Raul. Maybe I should have properly named it the “Castro Ruz regime”.

    I reasonably accurately described the “private sector” in Cuba. Have you any additions to make? Any growth in that “private sector” is a consequence of the state ceasing to pay people, who then endeavor to eke out a living by purchasing a 200 peso licence from the MININT office and operating either from home, or on the streets pursuing the types of occupations I described.

    But do please provide illustration to support your view, can you describe anything additional to those I mentioned? I noted that as usual you explained that others elsewhere experience even worse conditions. I agree that time is moving on, leaving Cuba in its time-warp.

    I only wish that Cubans could be as happy as you are about their lives. As you are so optimistic, what differences do you anticipate a nine year old Cuban child being able to look forward to by the age of twenty one?

  • Yes, CUBA is locked into TIME! How do they get out of it and see a future for the entire country?
    Right now, the entire population could be diagnosed as having PTSD per the DSM-V for all the mental anguish they have endured over the past 60 years.
    No Help appears to be on the way from anyone. The blame game needs to stop against the USA. It is the inhumane treatment by the Cuban Government on it’s people that has caused other countries not to want to trade with them.
    When I was there 10 years ago both Germany and France were helping out since the Russian government had bowed out and now there is little Hope and Change on the horizon.

  • And Mr MacD,
    To see the increase in Cuba’s private sector, you just gotta take a walk around. There is a stark difference in comparison to when I first had the privilege of setting foot in The Pearl of the Caribbean…….
    To try and convince anyone otherwise simply doesn’t play.

  • Mr MacD,
    Some of your remarks are similar to you suggesting that today is Thursday and therefore tomorrow is Friday.
    In several comments on this thread I have mentioned the issues regarding the growing private sector in Cuba.
    I have specifically referred to State control over produce, imports and distribution as being a drawback. You refer to this problem as if I have not made prior mention.
    And as Dani has appositely pointed out, you appear to over personalise this. This constant reference to ‘Castro Regime’. And regular references to events of decades ago or to people who are long dead. Time is moving on.
    I am, as I say, cautiously optimistic. I’m sorry if you don’t share any optimism.
    Changes occur. Changes are occurring. As I say, I hope they speed up. But slow change is way preferable to any sudden violent change. Certainly for the safety and well-being of my loved ones in Cuba.
    When I look around this imperfect world I see lots of cause for concern. I see many places far worse off than Cuba.
    I’m most pleased for your sake Mr MacD, that your retirement is divided between Canada and Cuba – two highly safe options relative to a great many other parts of the world or parts of The Americas.
    I see plenty of far more disturbing developments elsewhere.
    As you know, I see the resurgence of the dreaded conservative/fascist hybrid as way more of an issue in comparison to the annoyingly slow pace of change in Cuba.
    But each to their own huh?

  • At no point Nick, did I suggest that the Cuban regime’s statistics are not as you described. My “idealistic” description of capitalism is precise and correct, as is my description that the means of production in Cuba are controlled by the state. I refrained from attaching adjectives.

    The Castro regime’s statistics which you obviously accept as “fact” are of dubious veracity. You are however, correct in thinking that I believe that my opinion based upon a combination of knowledge and observation of the “private sector” is more accurate. Capitalism in that sector doesn’t exist. Pushing a wheelbarrow is just that.

    What percentage of the working age population of Cuba, do you believe hold licences for “private sector” enterprise?

    Your adoption of the Castro regime’s description of the US embargo as a blockade, is revealing.

  • Mr MacD,

    Again we go round in circles.
    And yet again you try to place your opinion above fact.

    However, I think your idealistic description of Capitalism is completely wonderful and I’m not going to suggest anything further that may detract from this wonderful ideal.

    I’m cautiously optimistic regarding Cuba’s future regardless of the degree to which it may or may not fit into your Capitalist Idealism.

  • Honestly Osmel.
    I don´t see that coming soon. but there is hope.

  • Nick, I was much impressed by your inference that those who cut hair, peddle bici-taxis, put half a dozen brushes and sqeegees on their shoulders to hawk around town, sell pork produced from pigs raised in back yards from their porches or sell a couple of dozen 200gm loaves for a mark up of 1 peso represent “Capitalism”.

    Just a gentle reminder that capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit. If that fits your image of Cuba, then there is little to discuss, as I differ having observed that the means of production in Cuba are controlled by the state, which having reduced production is now dependent upon obtaining financial support from those capitalist countries that you so frequently criticize.

    Regarding your ingrained concern about the Cold War, I repeat that it is long gone along with the USSR and that the Iron Curtain is but a foul memory.

  • Mr MacD,
    The private sector has doubled over the past decade in Cuba.
    And no, it hasn’t yielded perfect results for all involved. Unfortunately Capitalism generally doesn’t result in perfection of outcome for everyone. But that doesn’t mean this change hasn’t happened.
    As Mr P says, this change is ‘relative’. But it is a fact. I haven’t seen anyone seriously deny this being a fact. Not for the first time you show that you don’t like it when the facts get in the way of a good story.
    You seem so keen to cling onto the Cold War era.

    Did you know there are those who say that if you put together all the pieces of ‘Berlin Wall’ that have been sold online, you would have enough to build several Berlin Walls??

  • The glaciers slowly moved on Nick, taking up to 10,000 years to move one kilometre. The only encouraging factor regarding any glacial movement by the Cuban communist regime is that eventually it may melt releasing all those contained within it’s inexorable grip. Not only would the Cubans be liberated, but they might also have a regular supply of potable water.

    I think I accurately described the changes that have actually occurred, in the last ten years, but perhaps you would care to describe some others from your apparently liberated political point of view?

    As for the figures “such as they are”, they are I guess as dependable as any others provided by the regime.

    It’s good to note that you have noticed that the Cold War is over. Liberation for millions was the consequence.

  • Dani change in Cuba is relative and should be measured as such. I assume that you consider the availability of 2G WiFi hotspots in Cuba as change. Yet, as the rest of world prepares for free and unlimited 5G technology, crowds still gather in Parque Central in Havana to pay for the antiquated 2G technology using 1 hour data cards. Relatively speaking, I see very little change. I see long lines at 49ers football games for vegetarian hot dogs (?) while my family members in Guantanamo stand in line for chicken rations. I see very little change.

  • Mr MacD,
    I’m mentioning figures relating to the private sector in Cuba such as they are. I’ve also mentioned various drawbacks including government control of produce, products and imports etc.
    I’m certainly not suggesting that all aspects of the recent private sector increase are an overwhelming success. I’m not suggesting that the increase in private sector is perfect. And I’m most definitely not suggesting that capitalism would solve all Cuba’s problems (or all problems anywhere else in the world for that matter).
    But what I am saying is that there have been considerable changes since I first went to Cuba and particularly over the past decade.
    I don’t see how anyone can say otherwise unless they simply wish to deny that these changes have happened because of their personal agenda or rigid political viewpoint.
    The Cold War is over. Cuba will slowly move on.

  • To be brief dani, you obviously truly believe that in Cuba “it’s not the government that is the problem”. As you truly believe that totalitarian rule is not the problem, then the enunciation and explanation of a multitude of facts to the contrary, will obviously not affect your delusion.

    The “sizable bulk” of the Communist Party of Cuba members, is 7% of the population.

    I assume that Nick in suggesting that “the private sector in Cuba has doubled in the past decade” is basing his opinion upon the number of licences issued by MININT offices, as in 2 x 2 = 4. I understand that in response, he may reflect regime claims that 30% of Cubans work in the private sector – but do not observe such thriving businesses.

    In our community, we have a few more hairdressers, far fewer selling CD’s, a multitude of bici-taxis (those who have installed electric motors are increasing in number), those selling pork from their porches come and go as the number of pigs raised in back yards varies, as do those who hawk bread from their bicycles at 6 pesos, having bought them from the panderia for 5 pesos. Those selling shoes, clothes, brushes and squeegees from their homes or as street vendors have increasing difficulties in obtaining goods. Such is the “private sector”.

    Any increase in the number employed in the “private sector” is a consequence of Raul laying off 500,000 workers previously paid by the state. They of necessity had to endeavor to find some way of eking out a living. Remember that the published list of allowed businesses requiring a license included one for pushing a wheelbarrow.

    But for some, I guess that represents change!

  • Moses – there is scope for dialogue though limited. I have mentioned a few already. A dissident tackled a government minister regarding the travel ban (can’t find their names at them moment). He wasn’t sent to jail and fairly soon after the government changed their policy to allow foreign travel.

    When students had a sit in and complained about the situation and the conditions in the university, they weren’t imprisoned or killed, instead the government listened and sacked the headmaster.

    With the Maleconazo I agree that Fidel Castro didn’t react with violence and quelled the crowd with charisma. However I think you are missing two main factor. He tackled the issue by bringing out his supporters en masse on to the street and by listening to the protesters demands. He asked them “what do you want?” and when they replied he said “Well if you want to go, you can go then”.

    The lesson for the opposition is ask for something which is reasonable and achievable, build up support and the government will probably cave in.

    Carlyle – I don’t agree that nothing has changed. The government has had to change out of necessity many times. Fidel made it no secret that he disliked the Chinese and Vietnam models but despite this that is what they have decided to move towards. But they are also trying to keep a kind of corporate state model as well. Like I said I think they would be better off moving towards a market socialism model.

    I think you over personalize the situation in Cuba. As in the Soviet Union it’s not the government that is the problem so much but a sizable bulk of the party members who resist all change. Gorbachev alluded to that fact.

  • Mr MacD,
    I understand some of the points you make but I don’t see how your viewpoint relates to the fact that the private sector in Cuba has doubled in the past decade.
    Since I first went to Cuba 25 years ago some things are still the same but other things have changed considerably.
    Personally, I would hope that these changes a) continue and b) speed up.

  • dani. There is always room for academic discussion. But certainly by now, both Nick and yourself (I know naught of Eclectic, but agree with much of what he said – and enjoyed his quote of Margaret Thatcher) ought to be aware that as pointed out repetitively by Cuban writers (exception Elio Legon faithfully expounding the views of the Propaganda Department of the PCC) endeavors to have any form of discussion or submission of alternative policies, leads to jail and directly to jail, without passing “GO”.

    You may be able to recall “El Comandante’s” criticism of Vietnam for straying away from the Stalinist interpretation of Marx/Engels/Lenin. No such deviation was to be permitted in Cuba. Since Raul Castro’s visit to the USSR in May, 1953, the Castros have pursued that Stalinist interpretation. Discussion implies something different from that which is in place ie: change!

    Change is unacceptable to the Cuban regime firmly following the directions laid down by the Castro’s and Raul Castro so recently amending the Constitution. Those who are intended to assume power when the aging Castro/Ventura/Valdes bunch eventually join “El Comandante”, the younger sixty year old Diaz-Canel/Rodriguez/Marrero et al group, have known nothing else all their lives – and adherence to it has served them well personally. So don’t expect any change by them – or any possibility of open discussion.

    There is one area that may be fruitful. Lurking silently in the background are Alejandro Castro Espin and Luis Alberto Rodriguez Callejas who between them actually control the major part of the economy and both internal and external security. Both enjoy power and may seek more when Dad and Father-in-law has gone!

    Now maybe dani, Nick, and yourself might care to discuss the possibilities that arise from those observations. For that, unlike discussing the possibilities of reasoned discussion with a totalitarian ruler, may not be purely academic.

    There is some truth in your observation about capitalism and even more about socialism.

    The apparent difference between you and I, is that whereas you think that the Cuban regime is open to holding reasonable discussion and to change bringing constructive change, I don’t. My view remains as previously explained that eventually the current communist system will rot from within. It certainly will not adopt change.

    With regard to Nick’s view supported by your own, that I was abusive, perhaps I ought to have described your wishful thinking as a somewhat pious hope disregarding Cubans experience! I believe in addressing that reality.

  • What Dani suggests on it’s face appears reasonable. But on the ground in Cuba there is no way to “dialogue” with the Castro dictatorship. Period. There is no evidence of inviting opposition input that was taken seriously. There is ample evidence of those who would dare do so being killed or imprisoned. Instead, Cubans who disagree with the regime have for the most part chosen to move against the Castros by voting with their feet and leaving the country. Against any reason to believe it possible, I continue to hope for an organic, from the people style uprising to take place. Something similar to what happened in 1994 in Havana but necessarily on a much larger scale. Unlike the Maleconazo, which Fidel himself put down with just a bullhorn and personal charisma, the next one is likely to be met with violence because Diaz-Canel has the personality of a yucca plant (no offense to yucca plants intended).

  • Dani, This article seems in danger of provoking an outbreak of common sense on the comments section.
    I always read the articles of Osmel Ramirez with great interest as he seems to have a very balanced viewpoint. I totally get his frustration that his balanced viewpoint is not, thus far, appreciated by the powers that be in Cuba. I hope and believe that he and others of his sensible viewpoint will achieve significant influence going forward.
    I recall a classic Scottish joke a few years ago when two Giant Pandas were welcomed at Edinburgh Zoo (courtesy of Communist China). The joke was that there were at that point more Giant Pandas in Scotland than Conservative MPs.
    Conservatives are indeed a rare species north of Hadrians Wall, but one of Scotland’s sons, Mr MacD, appears to be the exception that proves the rule……
    I would think that even an old Scottish Conservative Cold War Warrior such as Mr MacD would prefer sensible and realistic changes in Cuba rather than a continuation of the same old status quo……..
    The continuation of the status quo or a violent alternative are both unthinkable.

  • Carlyle – I would have replied something similar to what Nick has said regarding dialogue and violence. So far your contribution to this debate has been nothing but abuse.

    Nick and Eclectic – Terms like capitalism and socialism aren’t very exact and people tend to use them to mean what they want.

    I would say that China is more a hybrid system or state capitalist rather than pure capitalism. What is clear is that they are extremely successful. America wouldn’t have survived the crash in 2008 if it hadn’t been for the Chinese intervention.

    The ideas I have put forward I would describe as market socialism as they disallow a share market and make the workforce as the main owners of their workplace. It doesn’t mean that the state can’t include planning on a macro level. But this can be done by adjusting grants and taxes and giving or withholding planning permission etc. After all there is no benefit in allowing a free for all on building hotels for example.

  • Eclectic,
    You make very valid points.
    The private sector in Cuba accounts for around 33% of the workforce. This percentage has more than doubled over the last decade (which is not bad going) but is still low in comparison to just about everywhere else. Furthermore the distribution of products and produce is still held back by unnecessary statism.
    I would agree that a continuation in this direction (transition toward more Capitalism or ‘economic liberalism’ ) would likely improve the economic situation.
    In the long run I believe this to be inevitable. It’s about timescales and they really do need to get a shift on.
    Dani has also proffered something along similar lines: cutting red tape, relinquishing state control over imports and distribution, the involvement of the co-operative sector and employee incentives/profit shares.
    A ‘social safety net’ which you have described as ‘admirable’ is also important (healthcare; education; ensuring that child malnutrition does not creep back in as it has in Russia and in fact, ensuring all are able to acquire at least a basic level of staple foodstuffs etc).

    For such changes to work well, I would also concur that whoever is administering this would need to administer it well rather than badly. For the current Cuban governing party to follow their Vietnamese and Chinese counterparts and administer such changes competently, it would require a pretty big internal shake up. There would also need to be a stamp down on the scourge of corrupt middle management that skims off profit and causes inefficiency.

  • Nick is correct in distinguishing between the underlying politics of the countries that have transitioned to capitalism in recent years. His distinction demonstrates that regardless of a country’s underlying politics, a transition to capitalism is possible. Each country, including Cuba, must find its own way to make that transition.

    I cannot say “whether a capitalist system administered by a communist party (eg Vietnam, China) is preferable to say, a capitalist system administered by a socialist party (eg Mexico/Spain)”. I suspect it is a matter of “how” a communist party of socialist administers the capitalist system. My point is that, either way, a transition to a capitalist system is the key to Cuba improving the lives of its citizens.

  • Change comes through violence. Change comes through dialogue.
    If people stop attempting dialogue, then that just leaves the first option.
    The first option, in Cuban terms, means blood on the streets of Havana (again).
    I know that a small minority may have the opinion that blood on the streets is a price worth paying for change. But by my reckoning the vast majority of Cubans do actually find that the country’s relative orderliness should not be sacrificed. My understanding is that most Cubans absolutely do not want blood to be spilled in the name of change.
    Therefore that leaves:
    One thing that definitely won’t achieve any change is folks banging on their computer keyboards in an attempt to prove that they are better than the Cuban Government at rhetoric and sloganeering. Which they ain’t.

  • Anybody who knows Cuba and the Castro regime, realizes that to suggest that those opposed to totalitarian tyranny ought to: “seek dialogue with the government”, is either displaying ignorance or sick humour. As dani has been in his own estimation been reading and at times contributing to HT for “probably ten years”, I credited his comment to humour rather than ignorance. Maybe I was wrong and should have credited him with the latter?

  • Hi Carlyle,

    I haven’t been away – just commenting a bit less frequently. I’m a bit disappointed that you aren’t being very constructive. I would like to hear your views on how the opposition should act and how the country could progress.

    I would disagree with you that there is no scope for dialogue. It is well documented that discussions do occur in the barrio meetings and workplaces and also within the PCC. It was announced the number of proposals for the new constitution that were submitted and the number that were rejected. I could also point to a Pedro Campos article in Havana Times where he said that proposals put by his group had been accepted by the PCC.

    But I guess my point is that you can influence policies without necessarily getting elected to office. Think of Nigel Farage who has failed every time to become an MP. Think also of Greta Tunberg and the Black Lives Matter movement.

  • Completely free elections with alternative political parties, free media, separations of powers within the state etc is the way to go.

    Only problem the communist dictatorship isn’t going to let it happen.
    You are jailed, harassed, exiled or worse.

  • Eclectic writes
    ‘Viet Nam, China, Hungary, Slovakia and the Soviet Union….have all successfully transitioned to capitalism….and their citizens live a better life for it.’

    This is a interesting sweep, linking together countries who, for example, are run by a single political party, by a far right wing racist and by an Authoritarian ex KGB man who routinely approves of assassination of anyone who steps out of line. According to several polls a significant majority of Russians who are old enough to make the comparison, apparently state that life under the Communist system was preferable to life under Putinism. (Russia currently seems to many to be a blend of the worst aspects of Communism with the worst aspects of Capitalism.)

    I’m not necessarily disagreeing, but is Eclectic saying that a Capitalist system administered by a Communist Party (eg Vietnam, China) is preferable to say, a Capitalist system administered by a Socialist Party (eg Mexico/Spain) ??

    Therefore in Cuba, their Communist Party just need to switch to a Capitalist economy as in China and Vietnam ??

    Again, I’m not necessarily disagreeing, but Is that the suggestion ?

  • Hang on……..
    Everyone can have differences of opinion. Sometimes these differences can get a bit heated.
    But describing another’s comments with the term ‘sense of sick humour’ is not a good way of conducting matters. Disagreement is not a problem, but describing someone’s comments as ‘sick humour’ surely indicates a lack of reason.
    I think Mr Circles R may even concur that this type of remark is perhaps going a touch too far????

  • Recall the false hope of the Revolution that removal of Fulgncio Batista would improve the life of the average Cuban. After the initial euphoria of expropriating the assets of successful Cubans, it has been a straight path down. The Revolution has been a change….for the worse. As the author notes:

    “Today, we can definitely say that the situation in Cuba is a lot worse than it was in 1959.” Sad but true.

    The problem is the system. As Margaret Thatcher once said: “The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Cuban has run out of other people’s assets to give away. It has squandered its own resources, become dependent on the Soviet Union…and then become dependent upon Venezuela. It has missed the opportunity to become self sufficient. Other former socialist countries….Viet Nam, China, Hungary, Slovakia and the Soviet Union….have all successfully transitioned to capitalism….and their citizens live a better life for it.

    Cuba needs to become productive. To do that, it needs to release the entreprenuereal abilities of the Cuban people. They need to be encouraged to become productive and to be rewarded (not discouraged) for their efforts.

    Cuba also needs access to capital, which will not flow to a government that embraces expropriation of private assets. People, including foreigners, must be able to own property, make a profit, and have their efforts protected by the fair application of reasonable laws. Within that framework, money and investment will flow to Cuba. Without it, business will stay away.

    In the end, the problem is the system. A secure social safety net is admirable. However, socialism administered by the communist party has always been a failure. It will continue to be a failure in Cuba, and Cuba will continue to fail, until there is a major change.

  • Interesting to see you back dani, and to observe that your sense of sick humour remains active.

    To suggest that any opposition to the totalitarian communist regime in Cuba “should seek dialogue with the government” is really a prime example of sick humour.

    You could perhaps of suggested a suitable location for such dialogue – Villa Marista maybe?

  • I have been following and reading Havana Times for probably ten years now. And would have to say that this article here is the most thoughtful and intelligent one that I have read here. So congratulations and thanks Osmel. I would say that the opposition needs to clearly against interference of any kind from the USA and disavow completely the blockade (or embargo if you prefer). I think it also should seek dialogue with the government rather than overthrowing. Which also means going easy on the issue of elections, constitution etc. Instead it should concentrate on some practical economic changes. My suggestions would be

    1) Unification of the currencies
    2) Allow private farmers to produce what they want and sell at market prices with minimal interference. And allow distribution by way of cooperatives. Farmers cooperatives to be given the same freedoms but with elected officials. Farmers organizations to help farmers with machinery such as sprinklers.
    3) Move away from the libretta to a universal basic income paid in cash.
    4) Move SMEs to be proper cooperatives though in some cases state owned enterprises could compete alongside the cooperatives on a fair basis.
    5) Large organizations such as cubana airways, cubatel etc to remain as state monopolies but a share given to every citizen and therefore a vote on who the were.
    6) A method put in place so that corrupt officials can be identified and removed from office such as an anonymous PO box and an independent commission in charge of tackling the issue. Move to a card transaction system which is harder to defraud.
    7) Allow cooperatives, the self-employed, state enterprises to import and export with minimal red tape.
    8) Allow all companies to search for investment up to certain limits on the basis of non-transferable bonds which can be purchased back at a later date.
    9) Allow small enterprises to hire a certain number workers. If they grow bigger then the workers need to start getting shares in the company.

    Just a few ideas, but obviously it is up to the people of Cuba to come up with their own.

  • Why would the communist party in Cuba relinquish power to anyone? Ammi wrote an article in HT which captures very clearly the sentiment on the Cuban street: “What I call in Cuba: Learned Helplessness”. (June 17/’20)

    Generation to generation Cubans have tolerated the misery and incompetence inserted into their lives with little to no resistance or solution to change. As Ammi writes Cubans, through no fault of their own making, through their hands in the air and lament what is the use of complaining because no one will do anything to change things, let alone even listen. Sixty years later.

    Ammi concludes “learned helplessness” is pervasive in the country and does not see any end to this behavior. To remedy the situation Cubans must do more than speak out, unfortunately this leads to speakers’ reputations being tarnished and branded as “criminals” as Osmel states; they need to act intelligently but aggressively. Osmel alludes the opposition needs to search for a middle ground solution. Possibly.

    The Cuban government with their innovative ways to placate the population – how about a carnival over here; how about a carnival over there, how about letting them enjoy luxurious all inclusive hotels even though many can’t afford it – all this patronizing will make them happy and complaisant and complain they do, yet the government knows full well direct, organized, internal action will not happen. The opposition is divided. The regime knows full well how to keep it that way.

    Osmel writes: “The other thing that needs to happen is the Cuban people need to overcome the mental barriers, by some miracle, that stop them from advocating for the change Cuba needs, which is the best path forward.”

    He is in full agreement with Ammi about this concept of “mental barriers” to which Ammi attributes to “learned helplessness” ingrained in Cuban society for over 60 year. That is a lot of decades old learning that needs to be unlearned.

    The Cuban opposition, no doubt aware of this pervasive learned behavior, needs to coral this sentiment and make it work positively to their advantage for needed change.

    In the final analysis, unfortunately, the only way progressive, democratic change can occur in Cuba today is through multi-party fair elections which is an anathema to the current communist regime.

  • To further elaborate on my previous comment:

    What’s in a name? That which we call El Bloqueo
    By any other name, would stink as bad…….

  • The terminology used by pretty much everyone in Cuba is ‘El Bloqueo’.
    This translates to ‘blockade’ in English.

    But what’s in a name ?

  • Osmel Ramirez reflects the difficulty that faces Cubans internally and almost eternally. Yes Osmel, there are many opposition voices, but the totalitarian state prevents them from organizing. Your obvious pain is shared by so many and visible to those who care to listen to Cubans.

    Cuba’s problems are internal, and you say, “The system really is only surviving and clinging on to power and blaming the US embargo.” I agree that the embargo has been utilized as an excuse for the endless mess of incompetence created by pursuing 19th century Marxist concepts, and managed by Communist loyalists rather than by intelligent qualified people. But, the system survives by exerting total power and control, and looking up those who seek change as “counter-revolutionaries”.

    In answer to Mavis Clarke (see above):


  • Whatever happens internally, Cuba needs to expand good relationships with the largest possible amount of countries across the continent and the wider world including Europe and China.
    The worst outcome would be a return to drastic over reliance on a relationship with one single foreign power (for example USA, Russia).

  • Free elections and the Cuban dictatorship out. Free markets multi parties elections that is the solution. There is not Blockade that is an excuse for everything, there is an embargo because the companies owned by Americans citizens that the Castro family stole and destroyed that is why nothing works in Cuba except repression and misery.

  • Osmel – you have again shed lots of light on the situation in Cuba and are probably right about the only path that will actually make things better for the people and eventually the entire Country. Here in the USA, I have struggled with these quandaries through my Cuban friends since 1960. My heavens, that is 60 years. I wish Marco Rubio and some of the other Cuban leaders here could swallow a bit of their pride and head in the direction you suggest rather than insist on total capitulation of the Marxists.


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