One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

Rosa Martinez

Young man contemplating a beautiful sunset over a blacked out Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — About a month ago, an online newsletter I receive daily in my inbox, brought me the alarming first news that blackouts were returning to Cuba again.

Extremely worried about what could be on the horizon, I spoke about this with various family members and friends who don’t have access to the Internet, and therefore are only aware about what the Cuban news tell them, and we know exactly what that is.

“That’s a lie girl, it’s just another campaign to discredit the Revolution,” one of them said.

“IMPOSSIBLE, Rosita,” commented another, “there’s no way we can go back to our past full of shortages and scarcity. No matter how many difficulties we face and the fact that we don’t see the country progressing, we’ll never go back to the past, that’s impossible.”

A relative I see a lot of because we live in the same house, told me: “Have you gone crazy, woman? The people won’t stand for 10 blackouts or more belt tightening measures, they’ll take to the streets.”

I waited for the commotion to begin days later, when workplaces told their employees that there had been a 50% decrease in the fuel and electricity supply in the state business sector. That was all it was, a commotion that would make people save more and make managers make full advantage of company resources (i.e. steal less), and making people use take holidays in the summer season, instead of wasting time at work.

Unfortunately, that’s not all.  Last Friday, Raul Castro officially recognized the “economic problems” the country faces in a speech he gave to the Cuban legislature (of course, we don’t need any kind of confirmation because we all know this perfectly by now, what’s new is that the problems we face are much worse than the ones we had before).

He also said that we wouldn’t go back to the Special Period (I hope he’s right because it would be a catastrophe, young people today aren’t like what young people were in the ‘90s, they won’t be able to handle a crisis like the one we suffered back then. Of course, those in power know this all too well, and that’s why they don’t want the people to be affected too much. However, it’s one thing to want something and it’s a completely different thing to have no choice and be forced to do something).

The President stated that there may be worse things on their way (in other words, shortages) but that we are better prepared now than we were in the past. That must be true because after half a century of the US trade embargo, a Special Period, an enemy who sleeps right next door, it must have all been for something. Although many people speculate that this is false, that we aren’t capable of doing anything, because if we were, how do you explain such significant cutbacks overnight?

Among the causes for our current situation, he mentioned the failure to meet export revenue expectations and a reduced fuel supply from Venezuela, to name just two. I don’t know what you might think about this subject, but I think that the only reason all of this is happening is because of the decline in Venezuelan oil. That alone is enough to leave us rocking.

Nevertheless, he assured that the Cuban people will be affected to the minimum possible, I believe he was referring to the blackouts because these have already begun to affect people. But how can people not be affected, if outpatient clinics and other non-emergency polyclinic and hospital services are only open until midday; banks are working without the air conditioning on and with less staff (a longer queue in greater heat); urban public transport, at least in Guantanamo, had seen a large number of new buses with new routes and a more regular service, and now it’s gone back to what it was before or worse still; drinking water supplies to homes have gone from every other day to every three or more days?

Furthermore, if factories close for a month or 15 days in order to save resources, this will only lead to a greater shortage of national products on the market, without mentioning the importing of products that they called for substituting with national production years ago and never did. Somehow they think they can pull it off in the middle of our current crisis.

Last but not least, the call for us to save and take full advantage of our resources. We’re already used to making more out of less, that motto became Cuban a long time ago, the only thing is I don’t know if we’ll be able to this time.

25 thoughts on “One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

  • Don’t change the question. My comment is regarding Cuba not the Soviet Union.

  • Stop the falsehoods, please. NEVER did I write even one word in support of the “paranoid Castro family”, nor did I ever say that I “admire” them. You live in a fantasy world of your own making. I support The People of Cuba, and they support their Revolution in HUGH numbers, and their leaders. They are an independent country and have found their own way in this world. By the way, you do NOT live in Cuba.

  • Are you joking? Paul Robeson supported the Cuban Revoluntion to the day he died, and he never ever denounced the Soviets either. Get real!!!

  • Your say ‘The US Government policy of describing civil rights workers as “communists” was used against the late great Paul Robeson’. By putting the word “communists” in quotations and the term “used against” certainly suggest that you think this description is incorrect. My comment about US apologists was general and not aimed at you.

  • Don’t get too excited Conrad, it isn’t good for your heart, just accept that the whole world is not going to accept communism as beneficial and that there are those who prefer democracy, freedom of individual thought, freedom of the press and open free multi-party elections.
    Just trying to dismiss one with whom you as you parrot communist phrases, disagree as a “trouble maker” is somewhat fatuous.
    I remain in favour of open free multi-party elections for the people of Cuba, but agree that the paranoid Castro family communist regime which you so admire is loath to allow the peoples voice to be heard.
    I say again, that what I wrote about Robeson was correct. Your reason for debating it is not what I wrote but my writing it.

  • During previous years I have raised in these pages the subject of Paul Robeson, having first heard him speak live in 1948. I have quoted him and his actions and questioned why a man who fought so hard for the rights of black people in the US has received so little recognition for his endeavors by the very people whose cause he espoused.
    You certainly will not change my views about him and I invite you to read again what I wrote and my description of him.
    Finally, don’t bother trying to insult me by describing me as a “US apologist” read the chapter in my book about the US first!
    Do you deny or question what I wrote about Robeson – what are your suggested corrections?

  • Paul Robeson did indeed support the ideals initially proposed by the Castro revolution. Had he lived long enough to witness how Fidel reneged on his initial statements, we have every reason to believe he would have been no fan of summary trials and executions, false imprisonment, censorship, torture, and outlawed religion. Co-opting the reputations of civil rights leaders to bolster the image of the Castros failed revolution has never worked. Harry Belafonte, civil rights leader, actor and singer is still alive and well-respected. He is genuinely a friend of Fidel Castro. So what? The revolution still stinks.

  • Will do.

  • As already was explained, the quote was right but had nothing whatsoever to do with Cuba or the Revolution. Did you get that, my friend.

  • Paul Robeson was a dear friend of the Cuban Revolution, and just before he took ill in the early 1960s he was planning a tour of Cuba in support of the revolution, and was scheduled to meet with Fidel and Che, just as he did with the Soviet leaders regularly. Your knowledge of Robeson is faulty. By the way, we just found out you do NOT live in Cuba, just as many of us thought.

  • Fannie died in 1977 at the age of 59. I knew her since 1964. I did meet a Ms. Patterson, but can’t remember her first name. Is your mother still living? If so, ask her if she remembers Conrad Ermle.

  • Thank you. Somebody on this site tells the truth.

  • Let’s clear this one up. Paul Robeson was a communist and a lot of the civil rights movement were supportive of the Cuban revolution including Martin Luther King himself. He would be turning in his grave if he knew how his name is being used today by US apologists.

  • Thanks. I lovingly support a father and mother-in-law, both with engineering degrees. A sister-in-law who teaches elementary age children and my wife’s grandfather, a long retired lawyer who worked at the navy base in Guantanamo and receives a pension equal to about $10 per month. His life-saving medicine for hypertension costs twice that in Cuba when available at hotel pharmacies. My well-educated and wonderful family could not afford to est meat or buy decent shampoo were it not for the monthly care package my wife faithfully sends. Yes, I know what’s really going on.

  • Thanks for the personal and poignant comment Moses. I had no idea you were so connected via marriage to what’s really going on in Cuba.

  • The quote is correct. I never said she said it with regards to the Castro revolution. I am applying the quote to the increasing frustration of the Cuban people. I have the same last name as my mother. You would have to be in your late 70s, at least, to claim personal friendship with Ms. Hamer. If this is the truth, your advanced age would begin to explain your loose handling of the facts.

  • Do you deny that what I wrote was correct?
    I have not in any way re-written history.
    Your problem is that you are so busy trying to pick nits that you don’t read what people write. I have yet to see or hear a single word in Cuba about Robeson and you obviously never having visited Cuba don’t know.
    Why have you failed to write about Robeson?
    Finally, I am not your friend and would not wish to be, preferring to mix with those of intelligence – whether I agree with them or not!

  • He was one of many. To paint Fannie Lou Hamer with the same brush used to describe many of the Civil Rights heroes of that era is despicable.

  • Paul Robeson, who I respect highly, most certainly was a communist and was regularly feted by the Soviet Union, East Germany and most other communist states. Cuba revered Paul, and he supported the Cuban Revolution. You must not try to re-write history my friend.

  • I knew Fannie personally and you have misquoted her, entirely out of context. She made that declaration many times, always in relation to the horrors of US racism, but NEVER in relation to the Cuban Revolution. I can’t let you get away with that one. It’s time to stop it. Who is your mother? If she was close to Fannie I probably knew her too, and she’d remember me also.

  • The US Government policy of describing civil rights workers as “communists” was used against the late great Paul Robeson in 1949 when they took away his passport with the given reason being that they could not allow a black American citizen to visit other countries and deprecate US treatment of blacks.
    Hence in 1950, Robeson in addressing the UN accusing the US government of “genocide”.

  • It is you who are mistaken. My mother was a long-time friend and fellow civil rights worker who marched, rode, sat-in, and was jailed alongside Sis. Fannie. There is no written or anecdotal evidence that Ms. Hamer supported the Castro revolution. The FBI went to great lengths to paint many of the leadership in the civil rights movement as communists. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You make wildly erroneous comments about Cuba and now you are lying about someone close to my family. My mother is listed on her Sis. Hamer’s obituary as an honorary pallbearer. The quote is correct. You should stop making things up as you go.

  • Why don’t you provide the actual quote if Moses is incorrect?

  • You are misquoting Fannie Lou Hamer. She was a loyal supporter of the revolution and people’s democracy. Don’t misquote this grand lady of the left, a heroine of civil rights, democracy, and socialism.

  • Rosa writes that a relative she lives with said “…The people won’t stand for 10 blackouts or more belt tightening measures, they’ll take to the streets.” Sadly, the Cuban people will stand for it and a lot worse probably. If the Cuban people had been more courageous at any time over the last 57 years, things would probably not be as bad as they are. To quote Fannie Lou Hamer, when the Cuban people are finally “sick and tired of being sick and tired” , things in Cuba will change.

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