By Osmel Ramirez
HAVANA TIMES – “Things are bad.” This is the most common phrase you will hear all over Cuba because we have always been under a squeeze, at least for as long as I can remember.
It’s like a kind of national sentence or curse, which has been hanging over us ever since 1959 mostly, when “those visionaries” who wanted to save and improve our country, came into power. But the exact opposite has happened, and it’s like our “beautiful Cuba” has been swimming with a rock attached to its ankle, up until the present day.
This capacity the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) has to make things worse, is truly astonishing. When you think that the bolt can’t be tightened anymore, and you think that things will snap if they twist a little more, nothing! They carry on tightening and nothing happens. The resistance of our people is like a “never-ending” screw. The Party even recognizes this, although they attribute their failures and misfortunes to “the enemy”.
Now, the Government is making calls for the Cuban people to “boost farming efforts.” This isn’t anything new, they have always said it and these words are carried away by the wind, as if they were only uttered for the press or to raise the population’s hopes.
Doing this would imply “changes” that aren’t possible even with a noose around their necks, like they are now. The PCC wants to do this because holding onto power is their top priority, and everything else is subjected to this key principle.
COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across the world, causing health complications for people and also the economy. But the impact on our economy appears to have been a lot worse than in many other countries, but this crisis dates back a long time and this pandemic is just like rain on wet ground. No matter how much the government strives to change this reality in people’s minds with propaganda strategies, poverty is the only irrefutable truth that we experience every day.
It’s a very hostile landscape and, personally-speaking, I believe having a plot of land is a real blessing. An oasis to face the “desert” of this crisis. I normally try to plant something commercial that allows me to sell it and fix a small problem that a parent always has to deal with. But the perspective is different now: it’s pure survival!
This is why I have filled my plot with bits of this and that, trying to plant everything I can. Some tomato plants, even though they are out of season right now; a couple of rows of okra; a couple of lines of sweet potato; another area of cassava at least; three lines of French beans; another six rows of black-eyed peas; and the rest is corn. I already have pepper seedlings so I can plant them soon. I want to make sure that we can feed ourselves, even if we don’t have other things.
You can see all the farmers around here doing the same thing. There are also many neighbors replacing plants in their garden and the herbs outside the front of their homes, with root vegetables. This is the reaction to a great crisis and a prelude to a situation, which will be a lot worse.
These are also the consequences of Diaz-Canel’s famous “continuity” with what is understood to be Fidel’s legacy. This already had us in hardship and killing any hopes of real change towards economic and democratic progress after Raul, but now with the effects of COVID-19, they have brewed the perfect storm. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find food and any other basic items.
However, food is the toughest to track down and it’s essential, which is why I am planting a little of everything. We have to find a way to sail through this storm and fill our stomachs however we can. We don’t have any other choice.
We also have to fight in any way we can, in the way we feel able to, so that, sooner or later, we can “change everything that needs to be changed.” This is the only way we will have a Better Cuba, without shortages of food and freedom.