By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – The uplifting effect of humanitarian parole only lasted a couple of months. It now means losing time for the majority of people who want to emigrate, and that’s a lot of people. They see weeks and months pass by, and the long-awaited notification doesn’t come.
The thing is, leaving Cuba isn’t something without haste, in fact it’s the exact opposite, a great urgency and people are losing patience. Once again, migrants are traveling via Nicaragua and planes are taking off again with a surge in demand.
This month, two groups of young people from my neighborhood have already left, and another group will leave after the 20th. The same thing is happening in every Mayari neighborhood. I’m sure it’s the same across the country. So many people are leaving it’s scary.
While Diaz-Canel was speaking in Portugal about the Cuban people’s right to choose their fate – which I’m sure he was talking about the Communist Party’s (PCC) right to decide for everyone, thousands of fellow Cubans are boarding planes at airports, flying, making the journey or are already in Mexico waiting for an appointment for the famous application, which opens the door to a new life.
These are the only Cubans who are really deciding their fate, but far away from the political project that is the Revolution. Fields are empty, with few crops planted compared to just three years ago. Businesses and the public sector are no longer able to find a way to convince workers not to resign, earning such a meager wage.
The economy isn’t taking off either, plan after plan, because of a lack of incentives, confidence, and economic freedom with safeguards. MSMEs opening, which has garnered lots of media coverage, has been crucial to people’s survival amidst so many shortages and the State’s dysfunction, but they aren’t enough.
While they have greater potential than socialist, state-led businesses, it took so long to authorize them, that they have come at a critical time. In the middle of collective indifference, exhaustion and a more severe crisis, their opportunities to grow, develop and succeed have been significantly crushed.
If this had happened in 2013 or 2015, when there was a little bit of hope for change, things might have been different. But after so much disaster and the loss of the little hope that remained, it’s hard for them to reach their full potential.
Amidst so much migration, labor is unstable. You might have three workers today, and tomorrow, two might resign because they have a flight to Nicaragua in a couple of days. They tell you a relative or friend is going to “help them get out of this ruin where you can’t get even a little ahead, even if you kill yourself working.”
You get your hair cut by the same barber you always go to, the one you trust, and then the next week, he’s not there. There are hardly any more plumbers, carpenters, builders or farmers left. People who work hard often find someone “over there” to invest in their departure so they can work in a small business, as they’re told, in Texas or in Florida.
So many people are leaving that it hurts because we need them here. Here, where everything needs to be done or redone. It’s happiness for them, on an individual level, but grief for Cuba, who is bleeding because changes aren’t happening that give Cubans hope, freedom, and faith in their own land.
The PCC continues to be stuck on the “continuity” of something that doesn’t work, which we don’t like and that we don’t want. But because they have the power to impose it, “we have to stomach it with a plate of fries” or leave. Better yet, without the fries, because talking about potatoes, even in a metaphorical sense, is like blackmail because this root vegetable is greatly missed on empty Cuban tables.
In a hypothetical Cuba willing “to change everything that needs to be changed,” (read here the centrally planned state economy for full economic freedom, without restrictions on the private sector, or the list of banned economic activities, or the State’s block on agriculture, or the single-party system, or votes without elections, or the lack of separation and independence of public powers and respect for all human rights), the migration wave would come to a halt.
I’m absolutely sure we’ll be missing arms and minds, and there won’t be anyone left to emigrate, like now. We’ll go back in less than five years to receiving Cubans from the diaspora, as well as immigrants from the region seeking opportunities in this Pearl of the Caribbean, the Americas’ Singapore.
But we carry on in the hands of the blind. Not because we lack a vision, but because of their excess of power. They fear losing if they recognize “people’s full freedoms.” They believe they need to have us in their grip, controlled in an eternal lack of basic rights, as a false guarantee of a model that they assume is the only one possible. But they’re wrong.
There is space for all of us in the new Cuba and the PCC could be more useful or truly useful, pushing forward social projects, defending them, warning about anything that has the potential to crush social protections, but within a democracy, as it should be. They would be more useful than they are now, putting the brakes on freedom and prosperity, in the name of a socialism that doesn’t exist nor has the potential to exist, imposing a phantom that makes them dictators, and not lifesavers.
But in the meantime, our people continue to emigrate. Our youth are leaving. Our future is emigrating. Just like a shipwreck survivor on the crag of a coast watching the boat that could rescue him sail away, we watch our cousin, brother, sister, barber, teacher, and the seller on the corner leave.
There’s no other choice but to wait for something to happen, at least by the law of probability or “life”, as they say. Waiting and holding back the tears for something which, painful as it might be, is out of our control.