By Ronal Quiñones
HAVANA TIMES – One of the effects of the mass protests on July 11th, and other protests that have taken place since then, sporadically and as isolated events, in different places across Cuba is the country’s highest leadership’s frenzied pursuit to try and satisfy age-old demands.
This is, of course, praiseworthy, and one of the objectives of a protest, although in this case the main demand will never be satisfied under this regime.
Cuba’s highest authorities have spent the past two months visiting critical places, the places they’ve prefered to only give a sidelong glance for decades, and where especially violent concentrations broke out on July 11th.
In Havana, the most obvious case is the La Güinera neighborhood, which has been marginalized forever, and where the only officially-recognized death as a result of the protests took place.
It has always been a low-income neighborhood, where very modest people live, and others come from the country’s interior, all of whom live in pretty awful conditions, especially in terms of housing, with many family members crowded together under one roof, and almost zero privacy, both inside their own homes as well as on the blocks.
They are people who have a low educational level on the whole, and are raucous in their behavior. However, they are very hard-working and willing to do what it takes to “keep going”, as we say here in Cuba, without asking for a lot in return.
These were the kind of people that were the driving force behind the protests in this area, and decision-makers have finally gone to them.
Of course, when they visit the area, they ensure that the people attending their meetings are Party members and other “revolutionaries”, many of whom I’m sure took to the streets two months ago, but are more willing to enter into a dialogue and are more inclined to be swayed over.
In recent weeks, high-ranking officials whether it’s been the president Miguel Diaz-Canel, prime minister Manuel Marrero or the Central Committee’s ideologist, former Health Minister Roberto Morales, have made appearances there, and in other similar places in Las Tunas, Camaguey or Santiago de Cuba, just to mention some provinces.
They have come with investment promises that have been requested for decades at every Assembly of local representatives, and they’ve always been given the same response: the country doesn’t have the resources.
However, by the work and grace of Divine Providence, they do have the resources now to undertake these investments, at the exact same time that the US blockade has tightened its noose, the eternal scapegoat of pro-government rhetoric.
The same thing happened last year with wage reform. Thousands of Cubans retired, and some died, waiting for their wages/pensions went up, and the answer was always that they couldn’t go up. Nobody knows where this money suddenly came from to quintuple public sector wages.
This is the same thing; now there is cement, bricks, rebar and sand to give a decent house to many people who have spent half of their lives living poorly in temporary residences in deplorable conditions, and where their children have been born.
Suddenly, I don’t know how the many measures the Trump Administration took to worsen the economic siege aren’t stopping construction trucks from moving, streets are being paved and the neighborhood’s image is changing.
So, the question is: did they really not have the money they needed to do this before? It’s clear that this money has always been there, because the Cuban people have contributed very little to the national budget in the past two years, as a result of the pandemic, just like everywhere else in the world.
Simply put these needs were never the government’s priority before. They’ve always had money in order to uphold the elite’s privileges (trips abroad, luxury hotels, holidays in Varadero, etc) or to carry out mass events (with corresponding fuel expenses and other resources). However, if it was to invest in public transport or housing, then they would do the math down to the last detail and let people’s dissatisfaction grows.
Of course, the volcano will erupt at some point, just like it did on July 11th, after it began to erupt last year by the people in the San Isidro Movement (whose repression has been especially violent) and the protest at the Ministry of Culture.
While they try to calm the lava with these actions, on the other hand, they are dictating laws that further restrict the Cuban people’s pretty much non-existent civic freedoms, and this will leave the volcano fuming, waiting to erupt again.
The underlying problem remains, because the cry that could be heard all over Cuba 60 days ago was a lot more guttural than remittances, a house or a food parcel.