Flanked by Raul Castro and the dome of power in Cuba
HAVANA TIMES – “We are already vaccinated against covid-19, and against fear, we have always been. We have a Homeland and we defend life. And we continue to homeland or death,” Miguel Díaz-Canel claimed a week ago Thursday at the closing of the Seventh Ordinary Period of sessions of the National Assembly. “We will win!” he shouted, accompanying the deputies who responded to the slogan. And his voice broke. A coincidence, no doubt, but one that is still symbolic of the complex moment that the Cuban regime is experiencing.
The president had just closed a speech with a “No one is going to spoil the party,” a speech in which he reviewed only some of the serious problems that plague the country, starting with the energy crisis, the Ordering Task*, the covid-19 pandemic, the falling GDP and hyperinflation.
Even so, Díaz-Canel, surrounded by the dome of power and in the presence of former president Raúl Castro, considered that there is much to celebrate thanks to the improvement of the covid-19 data, which allows this coming November 15 to be a day the country reactivates on several fronts, including the reopening of borders – and, therefore, tourism – and the general resumption of the face-to-face school year.
In addition, just one day later, on November 16, 502 years have passed since the founding of the Cuban capital, another reason for celebration, which will be held the day before, on the exact day that the opposition has called for a peaceful march throughout the country.
In his speech, the president did not deviate one iota from the argument that the ruling party maintains in recent days and there were few or no surprises, since he made a compendium in which nothing was missing from what has already been read and heard. Much of his time was devoted to talking about the “destabilization plans of the United States.”
“The enemy’s formula has been to bet that our great material difficulties weaken the forces of the people and that the people get on their knees in front of them,” he warned. Although Díaz-Canel wanted to make it clear that “war actions, invasion and occupation are not ruled out against a socialist project like the Cuban one,” he stressed that the initial strategy is usually different: “demoralization and surrender.”
The president described as “opportunism of the adversary” the demonstrations of July 11 to which, without mentioning, he clearly referred when he regretted that “a climate favorable to irritation and discontent was created just in the months in which the pandemic escalated in the country, electricity cuts became frequent and the services on offer contracted.”
The president also emphasized the accusations against the US Embassy in Havana, against which he presented its Cuban counterpart in Washington as a haven of peace and diplomacy. Meanwhile, he accused, “US diplomatic officials meet with the counterrevolutionary leaders, provide them with guidance, logistical support and directly or indirectly provide financing.”
Díaz-Canel said that in the face of permanent harassment from the United States, the Cuban people are called to resist in a heroic way, as they have done in the pandemic, basically through management with their universal and free health system — something not as exceptional as the authorities usually advertise — and creating their own vaccines.
“Our development and the well-being of the people will have to depend on the effort we make, aware that the cruel policy of the United States will persist, as long as the criminal desire to take over Cuba’s destiny persists in that country. Socialism is not to blame for our problems. It is the only explanation for how that we have survived this fierce and genocidal siege without giving up on our own self-development,” he shouted.
The president’s speech also made reference to the laws unanimously approved this Thursday, the future Family Code, the State budget for 2022 and the importance of strengthening socialism. “Socialist democracy requires innovation, permanently changing the forms of democratic participation,” he said, calling on the population to get involved and participate.
Díaz-Canel still had room to proclaim the defense of human rights that, in his opinion, is constant in Cuba; and argued that the only limit to rights is in the Constitution, another clear reference to the opposition and the Civic March for the Change of 15 November, whose organizers consider it protected by the Constitution.
“The Law of Laws cannot be interpreted for convenience. Much less in the interest of those who are the first to not respect it. Rights are not unlimited. Their limits are in the Constitution,” he argued.
But Archipiélago, the platform that is calling for the march, does not back down nor plan to enter the game of the use of violence. On the contrary, the group published a statement yesterday on its social networks in which they asked for understanding with their demands and that they be brave by rejecting the call for the use of force made by the Government.
“We appeal to your consciences, if you are planning to throw a stick at a protester, please look at your children and think of the youth of 15N, at their parents. What do you solve by hitting a citizen? Hitting does not serve to kill ideas. If you do not agree with our way of thinking, then tell us in frank conversation from mutual respect. Do not let yourself be carried away by hatred,” they urge.
The statement also requests understanding from relatives who do not support the march for those close to them who do. “What we want is a better country; if the way things have been done to date has not worked, it is time to think about changes. Thinking like this does not make us bad, nor ’worms’, nor criminals. It makes us different.”
*Translator’s note: Tarea ordenamiento = the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ which is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others.