HAVANA TIMES — A person I hold in high regard recently expressed their opinion which, at the time, I thought was a little bit too radical: “Cuba’s main problem is the Wet foot/ Dry foot Policy. Because of it, we Cubans feel like we aren’t responsible for changing for what negatively affects us in our own country. We resolve everything by jumping into the sea.”
After reading the “The Ordeal of a Cuban Rafter” interview written by Ivette de las Mercedes and the comments made by readers, I felt for the first time that my friend’s opinion was sadly true.
Jorge Mendoza Correa’s story shook me to the point that I found myself wondering how I could help him and other survivors of this horrible experience. I don’t believe it’s impossible to organize a collection, even amongst HT writers or readers, even though we’re just ordinary Cubans and each and every one of us only gives what we can.
However, the most serious problem we Cubans have is the misleading temptation to believe that leaving is the only way to change our lives. And it’s becoming more and more disheartening as columnists (all Cuban) attack each other in such a way that they lose sight of the real cause, like always happens with politics.
A few days ago, I saw an excellent film which summarized this with ruthless accuracy. “The Truth” is told by the actress who interprets Mary Mapes, a US TV reporter whose prestigious career fell apart after she questioned the then president George W. Bush’s military record.
“Our story was about whether Bush fulfilled his service. Nobody wants to talk about that. They want to talk about fonts and forgeries. Because that’s what people do when they don’t like a story. They point and shout, question your political beliefs, your objectivity, and hell, even your basic humanity. And they hope to god the truth gets lost in the fray. And by the time they’ve actually finished, after kicking about and shouting as loud as possible, we can’t even remember what the starting point was.”
If there has been mass emigration in Cuba since 1959 because of “economic issues”, it’s surely an irrefutable sign of our government’s misguided strategy. Come on, who else are we going to blame? If a company goes bankrupt, its director will be the first one to be interrogated; whether he/she was directly responsible or just didn’t foresee the irregularities which led to the company’s downfall because he/she was responsible for supervising the company’s business activities.
I’ve never understood why, in government terms, analysis can be permeated with relativities, ideologies and even sentiments. It’s a mathematical equation. And supposing that the government’s actions were well-intentioned, because they are human after all, that doesn’t exonerate them in an administrative and political sense because the presidency of a country involves great privileges as well as duties. You can’t enjoy some of them and shirk your duty on others.
Now we’ve finally recognized that emigration wasn’t and will never be the solution to the Cuban problem as has been proven by the undisputed fact that it hasn’t stopped.
When I read the news about the migration crisis caused by the recent waves of Cuban emigrants in Central America, when I see their photos on posters asking for help, I wonder how they’ve managed to put themselves in such an orphan state. Also, when I hear stories like that of Jorge Mendoza.
If a child is born and grows up in a house they are entitled to, if he/she leaves that house to not face up to arbitrary paternal authority, if he/she puts himself/herself in the position of a beggar asking to be let in a house that isn’t his/hers, the first ones to blame for the hardship are his/her parents who have the legal responsibility to ensure that the child has the necessary conditions for their health and development.
In the case that the neighbor takes the person in, whether out of pity or because they want to exploit their situation, does that absolve his/her parents’ negligence? I can’t imagine a judge delivering a sentence to a neighbor for having taking someone else’s child in and pardoning the child’s biological parents.
Those immediately responsible in second place for the Cuban problem are us Cubans for being prepared to leave our native island and to convert ourselves into global outcasts. How have we got to the point where we no longer feel like our country isn’t our homeland, how our house isn’t and will never be home? Traveling and emigrating are our natural rights. However, the dangers that Cubans face and the failure of many shockingly reveals, and for too long already, that this hemorrhage isn’t freedom but an illness.
I disagree with the interviewee when he says that he’d never had political problems before. How can it be that, a country’s population thinks traveling in rustic and unsafe boats in the 21st century is a viable option, fleeing like criminals, is not a political problem?
The interviewee, who is a teacher, may have seen, even in our own media, how teachers in other countries hold strikes in order to demand their rights. In Cuba, a similar initiative can cost you your job (like it did in the case of medical doctor Jeovany Jimenez Vega), interrupt your studies in a specialist area, six years of unsuccessful legal complaints, lead you to write a blog and carry out a public hunger strike in order to recover what you lost without a pay rise.
Changes in doctor salaries, which in their own words are still not enough, were made much later.
But let us analyze the situation a bit better: a country in economic crisis, with “symbolic” salaries which pushes its citizens to commit crimes by stealing state resources, a country with an aging population and a long history of exile, will obviously have problems with its social organization, and therefore, politics. And if somebody reacts, which is natural, one person shouldn’t be blamed. Those responsible for this organization should be blamed. Reacting to a malfunction doesn’t prove that we’re to be blamed for the situation, but are victims of it. We shouldn’t feel stigmatized for wanting to protest against what directly affects us.
We don’t get to decide prices, nor salaries, nor the fact that you can’t denounce shortfalls in the government, and now we can’t even discuss it according to “laws” recently announced in the official press.
Yes, it’s definitely questionable whether the US maintains a law which turns the “imperial enemy” into the North Star encouraging the dreams of many desperate people. However, what can be said of a government who allows its citizens, like it did back in ‘94, to throw themselves into the sea in the same primitive conditions of uncertainty which makes such an attempt nothing but suicide.
It’s well known that during the Mariel boatlift in 1980, it was ordered that boats sent to collect family members were instead filled with strangers, including ex-prisoners and schizophrenics. These boats were put in danger because of this and there are testimonies from those who were part of the Mariel boatlift who tell us how they saw a whole crew sink, not only because the boats were overcrowded but because the Cuban government gave the order to depart once weather conditions started to go bad.
But what does that matter; the facts don’t matter when we can be distracted with finger pointing and the villification of those writing. And the worst thing is, even those who are supposedly concerned about the island’s future get involved in this neverending fistfight (including the eternal socialism-capitalism dichotomy), while our fellow citizens continue to die at sea. Statistics are not published and maybe not even archived. The only ones to suffer this pain and loss are Cuban families.