Equality and Social Justice among Cubans

Fernando Ravsberg*

Only a few years ago, Cuban baseball players could not even dream of playing in professional leagues with Cuba’s authorization.
Only a few years ago, Cuban baseball players could not even dream of playing in professional leagues with Cuba’s authorization.

HAVANA TIMES — Baseball players signing million-dollar contracts abroad are not the only Cubans taking in such sums of money – they are in fact joining other sectors of the population who are already doing so under the law and without having to leave the country definitively.

The fact players have been authorized to do this is good news. It was, incidentally, one of the demands people made during the debates prior to the Congress of the Cuban Communist Party. As I recall, one of the neighborhood-level meetings I attended turned down this particular request.

One need not be alarmed by this. Ultimately, we won’t be seeing social differences more pronounced than those that already exist between the average Cuban and some musicians, the more renowned painters or some of the representatives of foreign companies.

Opening such doors to athletes is a good way of keeping them from jumping the fence. Nearly fifty years of trying to retain them by force has served only to turn Cuban teams into free training centers for the US Major Leagues.

Now, Washington is the one denying them the right to play in the United States, authorizing them to do so only if they leave Cuba definitively – and they apply this policy beyond their borders, pressuring Mexico’s baseball league to demand the same.

Athletes are not the first Cubans to take in a lot of money. Musicians, painters and actors have been doing so well before them.
Athletes are not the first Cubans to take in a lot of money. Musicians, painters and actors have been doing so well before them.

Thus, despite the island’s laxer migratory policies, in order to be able to play in the big leagues, players must continue to “flee” communism, deserting during an official trip, boarding a speedboat or crossing a border illegally.

Cubans and the Negation of Negation

Cuba’s current policy can become a more effective means of inserting the country into the world stage. Keeping sports at the amateur level may be socially commendable, but the fact is that to continue to refuse to participate in professional boxing, volleyball or baseball isolates the country and frustrates its athletes.

This is happening beyond the world of sports also: Cuba’s strategy has ceased to organize itself in contradistinction to that of the United States. They appear to be developing it with an eye on domestic needs, without focusing as much on its similarities to the policies of the “enemy.”

The fact is that rejecting everything Washington uses as a tactic to destroy the revolution would entail cutting off migratory movements, preventing the development of civil society, prohibiting the operation of urban cooperatives, denying citizens Internet access and restricting the travel of Americans.

Ignoring such a powerful and resentful neighbor would be suicidal, considering that, since March of 1959, it has tried to overthrow the Cuban government through many different means, including assassination, the organization of an invasion and an economic blockade that has lasted more than half a century.

Following the migratory reforms, many believed that Cuban medical doctors would leave the country with their families. However, tens of thousands of these doctors continue to join Cuba’s internationalist missions abroad and to return to the island.
Following the migratory reforms, many believed that Cuban medical doctors would leave the country with their families. However, tens of thousands of these doctors continue to join Cuba’s internationalist missions abroad and to return to the island.

Acting only to counter the United States’ strategies, however, can lead to a no-less suicidal paralysis, for Internet access is vital to the country even if Washington uses the Web in its plans against Havana, as the AP news agency recently revealed.

As it turns out, things have not unfolded as the United States anticipated or Cuba feared. Cuba’s migratory liberalization didn’t prompt a mass exodus, Internet access for Cubans did not swell dissident ranks and foreign contracts for sportspeople did not bolster “desertions.”

When they announced that medical doctors had been authorized to freely travel abroad, I thought that many would leave in search of higher incomes. This, however, has not happened. On the contrary, more than 11 thousand joined a mission in Brazil, and only a dozen abandoned it.

Now, Cuban baseball players Gourriel and Cepeda can play in Japan and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, so much money, in fact, that they could even buy a new car in Cuba. They are living proof that not all citizens are equal, something that the majority of Cubans have known for a long time.

Concerns over social justice ought not long for the paralyzing egalitarianism of the past, but rather ensure equal opportunities that will allow all Cubans to forge a future for themselves, on the basis of their efforts and skills.
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Visit the blog of Fernando Ravsberg.


13 thoughts on “Equality and Social Justice among Cubans

  • June 23, 2014 at 11:10 am
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    Whereas I have met many Cubans who wish to leave Socialist Cuba, I have not met any who actually wish to leave their country, their community, their friends and their family. The drive to leave is fuelled by desperation and desire to escape the poverty which is imposed upon them by the Castro regime, not by outside influences. There are those pundits who sit in their comfortable armchairs in free countries pontificating about the merits which they apparently percieve in Socialismo, but they never walk the talk. Life in Socialist Cuba for Cubans is reality – it is their only life and their life is being squandered by the Castro regime. For the Castros the only way is their way and as long as they and their appointed successors retain power, nothing will change.

  • June 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm
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    Unfortunately, there is lots of evidence. Before the Castros latched on to the Venezuelan teat, they spent 30 years sucking up to the Soviets. Billions of rubles was misspent on building an albeit enviable and costly intelligence apparatus and very little on the public infrastructure. Note that the revolution has not funded even one national infrastructure initiative in 55 years. Meanwhile, countless forays into other third world countries to destabilize if not overthrow governments. With hard currency to spend, the Castros track record speaks volumes about their spending priorities.

  • June 20, 2014 at 10:03 am
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    Pay some “repair”!!! Are you on crack!!! I would personally make a sign and protest outside my Congressman’s office if he voted to approve even one cent to deliver to those tyrants. Castro wanted to drop a NUCLEAR BOMB on America. Get rid of the Castros and I could begin to see some aid to projects which went directly to production facilities and infrastructure. We are friends, at least we can start out that way. However, don’t ask me to ignore the repression the Castros continue to apply to fellow Cubans simply because they disagree. You know the crap people say every day about Obama? If someone drew a cartoon in Cuba of Fidel the way they print about Obama in the New York Times, that cartoonist would go to jail. A cartoon! Where is the existential threat in a cartoon? This year, the Castros will receive around 3 million Canadians, Europeans, South Americans, and even Americans. The tourism revenue they receive is exceeded only by the revenue received from the sale of medical services. Why would the revenues from an estimated 1 million more American tourists suddenly cause the Castros to change their policy after 55 years of tyranny? Raul has said there will be NO political reform. History tells us that dictators like the Castros only respond to force. We are friends, but we simply disagree. In Cuba, that would mean one of us would go to jail.

  • June 20, 2014 at 10:03 am
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    “the Castros will redouble their acts of repression against dissidents”. I don’t believe that for a moment and I don’t think there is any evidence to support that hypothesis. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to prove either way except by negotiating and dropping the embargo and seeing how it pans out. After all it is possible to reintroduce sanctions, if this really becomes an issue.

  • June 20, 2014 at 8:36 am
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    Let’s see. One thing at a time. Now, end the embargo. Grow up! Let me tell you something. I don’t think that Chinese or Russians are any better than US as empires. Just ask Georgians and Vietnameses. But the US the one “que nos toco por la libreta” and dividing the pie with Chinese and others is better that depending exclusively on the USA. As simple as that. Concerning the Cuban Revolution Moises, we were supposed to be out of the game long long ago in a way that could have easily been a devastating civil war, just as the reasoning behind the embargo assumed. But that simply didn’t happend. The last 25 years have been the ultimate test. If there was some doubt that Cubans are capable of self-government that has been already solved. How many countries in this planet could have been able to survive such an asymmetrical pressure? The Cuban landscape is one of a war, one that we have resisted. Call it rhetoric and propaganda if you wish, but the odds were against us by far and large and here we are. Still. Don’t forget that. So, tip your hat to the Cuban revolutionaries, behave as a gentleman and be a friend Moses, please. It has been too long already. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but …”.

    God bless America, Moses! And Cuba.

    Omar

  • June 20, 2014 at 8:22 am
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    With fistfuls of hard currency the Cuban leadership will improve as much as they can the infrastructure of Cuban cities and strategic economic areas. Just as they have done after increasing trading with Bolivarian Venezuela. Refineries, paved streets, improved debt service and so on. But most of all, survival. Thanks Chavez! The economic reforms are here to stay and to get deeper. The human rights, your perspective of them, have improved: there are far less prisoners, Cubans can leave the country without any kind of permission, Cubans can rent in any tourist facilities, so on and so forth. Clear cut Moses. What the so-called opposition claims about increased express detentions is a result of changes in the opposition activity and not in the repression, which is, by the way a sad necesssity in a country under threat. It is far easier to promote social peace by improving living conditions than by repressing people. As soon as the embargo is removed and Americans can freely enjoy Cuban services and Cuba can trade with US ‘normally’ the resulting increase in revenue will be used for the benefit of all Cubans. Just as it was done during the USSR times.
    Look Moses, lets be friends, come on! But not in the terms of the powerful but in those of the weak. Not that we end up owing US something for the nationalizations, but that this is cancelled out by all the problems that the embargo has caused to the Cuban people, or even that the US agrees to pay some repair.

    Omar

  • June 20, 2014 at 2:45 am
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    Mr. Ravsberg is wrong to claim that Cuban doctors can travel freely abroad. Their passports are “flagged” and unless on a official mission they are stopped at the border.
    Why “few”, in fact thousands, desert: their families are held as virtual hostages in Cuba and are blocked from joining them for years. The doctors themselves are also blocked for visits for years.

  • June 19, 2014 at 6:54 pm
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    Let’s look at your three examples and you will see that what you have described really is just a “dream”. First, the US “meddling” as you say, is a mixed-bag of successes and failures. For every Venezuela, there is a Colombia. For every Nicaragua, there is a Panama. On balance, if you compare the economies of US successes to the economies of those left-leaning countries that have spurned the US, the US-affiliated countries are far better off economically. Second, while the revolution has persisted, just take a look beyond the propaganda and rhetoric. Demographically, Cuba is shrinking. Economically, Cuba is dependent on Venezuelan handouts and remittances from abroad. If you didn’t notice, things are not so good in Venezuela. Socially, Cubans are less and less optimistic and sliding farther into a moral morass. The New Man is stillborn. Third, Chinese investments are a mortgage on future growth. Like in the US, Latin America will be indebted to their Chinese masters for at least a generation. Unlike the US, Latin America has no leverage and relies on external markets to buy their exports. In other words, they are simply the middle man. I have no illusions that US hegemony in Latin America is diminishing. You seem, however, to believe that good times for Cuba are just around the corner. That’s is certainly not true.

  • June 19, 2014 at 6:36 pm
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    Lifting the embargo will only worsen the human rights conditions in Cuba. With fistfuls of American dollars, the Castros will redouble their acts of repression against dissidents and, as they did when their current nursemaid, Venezuela saved their butts in 1998, they will rollback even the current tepid economic reforms. The best (or least worst) choice at this point is to let the clock run out on the Castros and start anew with their successors.

  • June 19, 2014 at 4:32 pm
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    Freedom, really? And what are Mexicans and millions from Central-Americans looking for? And Dominicans? The last time I checked they were living in democratic societies.
    And yes, of course, the US is one to blame for the difficult situation in Cuba. If you have any doubt: just lift the embargo. Just dare to do that.

    Omar

  • June 19, 2014 at 4:31 pm
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    But still, the embargo goes beyond US borders. Mexico is a sovereign state but not strong enough. Take Austria/EU as an example.

    Take for example the acquisition of an Austrian bank (BAWAG) by a US conglomerates which following the US embargo laws canceled around 100 accounts by Cubans in this bank (http://cubajournal.blogspot.se/2007/04/austria-charges-bank-after-cuban.html). There was a public uproar, even Austria’s foreign minister was forced to intervene. Then, an exception was made
    (http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/05/04/austria-bawag-cuba-idUSL0450488520070504) and the canceled accounts were reinstated. Austria’s opposition was supported by EU rulings about the extraterritoriality of the US Embargo, which as you surely know, is a chapter that is postponed every 6 month by the president in charge.
    Do you see the similarity? It is pretty obvious.

    Is it clear now that Mexico is being bullied, once more, by the US?

    Now, Moses, let’s dream. I mean dream for me, nightmare for you. Imagine that LatinAmerica come together and reject this bulling as a
    whole in an effective manner? It is in the making Moses. Your old backyard is slowly waking up. This is the result of many things and I will mention just three. First is the meddling of the US in the region where it has supported any kind of brutality, second is the stubbornness of the Cuban Revolution and wonderfully timed allies like our brotherly Venezuela, and third are Chinese investments.

    Oh, Moses! And you won’t be allowed in to the promised land! Poor bully
    Moses.

    Omar

  • June 19, 2014 at 11:13 am
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    Do you really think this is good news? Why do they want to “jump the fence” as you call it? People have perished trying to escape to the US, for freedom and not just baseball earnings. And you blame the US for this state of affairs?

  • June 19, 2014 at 8:29 am
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    It is misleading to say that the US embargo applies “beyond their borders, pressuring Mexico’s baseball league to demand the same.” Mexico chooses to affiliate with MLB and in doing so must submit to the rules and regulations which govern MLB. If Mexico wants to contract Cuban ballplayers, they can do so by severing their relationship with the MLB.

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