Another Year Lost for Cuba, Is There Any Hope for 2019?

Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Photo: Stanislav Retynski

HAVANA TIMES – The year 2018 came to an end and Cuba hadn’t make any significant progress. The economy is still stagnant and there aren’t any real chances that it will take off if we continue down the path we’re being led down.

Cuban politics has only changed its face, but it continues to be just as conservative as it has always been. And our society is breaking down, emigrating and struggling to get by or off the remittances they receive.

No country can make progress if it doesn’t let its people work freely. Encouraging businesses, cooperatives, self-employment, whatever it is, but freely. There needs to be regulations to organize this sector of course, but these become obstacles and prohibitions when they overstep the mark of what is reasonable.

This is how our government treats the private sector, the self-employed and cooperatives: with ridiculous bans, exorbitant fines and a tax policy that is too much for even large corporations.

On the one hand, Panama is offering special visas to Cubans who come to make purchases at the Colon Free Trade Zone and its entrepreneurs, just like those in Guyana, who have created special offers and accommodation for Cuba’s self-employed. And on the other hand, Cuba limits them with bans, strict Customs regulations and additional costs, to “make things harder” and to hike up bribes.

For example, Mexico is trying to get legal status for its citizens who have immigrated to the US. And Cuba, which has this privilege, is trying to do the exact opposite, advocating for them to get rid of it. This is how they managed to get Obama to revoke the “Wet-foot/Dry-foot” policy and if they could, they would get Trump to revoke the Cuban Adjustment Act and hold a party in Revolution Square. This despite remittances being one of the country’s greatest sources of foreign currency.

It’s worth asking them: are you our friends or the enemy? And facing such a landscape, what are they offering us exactly?

A new constitution where the only revolutionary and positive thing it had (although maybe it was a bit hasty because there hadn’t been a debate beforehand) was the recognition of same-sex marriage, now withdrawn from the text. They restored the goal of moving towards and establishing Communism, without them being able to explain what this is exactly, and the only thing we know about this is that they have to trample over half of the human rights (that humanity has had to fight for) and resort to violence to achieve this.

Let it be perfectly clear that we will continue to be just as helpless as we are now before the State and its repressive forces, without any chance of things getting better or us being able to struggle to make things better. They have said it themselves, CONTINUITY is what they want with this new Constitution. And continuity means us still living without freedom and in poverty.

Cuba’s social crisis is getting worse and worse too. Even though the government continues to make many plans (like they always have), they don’t have positive results. And the few of these that start out well are unsustainable because the system isn’t autonomous, it just moves forward pushed by a policy that turns its back on reality and focuses on another propaganda front. The very nature of this system is faulty.

So we watch the 600 lawmakers having a debate (more than half of which are political leaders of the Communist Party and the Government at every level and its organizations), talking about a country that doesn’t exist and in the name of a people who they don’t know or even figure in their speeches. They talk to us about an entirely different country, a fictitious and imaginary country. The country they dream of.

It’s a very sad and distressing landscape, which only forces us to ask ourselves, until when? Especially if they have all the signs of their mega-failure in front of their eyes. Just watching our people escape en masse, trying to reach the US to live a dignified life, to the “enemy’s” home!, that in itself should be enough to tell them what’s really going on.  

And those of us who remain here, “resisting”, have a nervous breakdown because of so many unsuccessful everyday things, which become big problems. There not being any flour for bread, or your child’s milk didn’t get in until 10 PM because there are transport shortages. There not being any public transport. Or that you’ve spent 40 years building your home and you still haven’t finished it. And where are Cuba’s hens because we can’t find eggs at the market?

If we can’t expect anything positive from the political system “of the Revolution”, or any real chance of things changing because the opposition pushes for it (it’s fair to say that this opposition barely or almost nearly doesn’t have any space to take action); if there isn’t another way out, then emigration seems to be the only possible option we have.

It’s a vicious cycle and the government doesn’t know how to get the country out of this rut, but it continues using the same repressive means and propaganda to hold onto the reins, to silence the voices of those who offer alternatives and to firmly root themselves in power. And this is how we have reached 2019. A year that our government has predicted to be “more complex and more difficult than previous years.” It really does look like we can’t expect anything positive for our beautiful Cuba.

However, in the middle of so much darkness, we can see a few glints of light. This isn’t coming from the political system unfortunately, which isn’t showing us that they can turn over a new leaf at all and evolve towards what Cuba needs.

There are small but significant signs of public spirit and active citizenship, such as the struggle against Decree-Law 349, the victory of the social protest that contributed to the retraction of the most stifling new regulations for the self-employed and the active campaign for voting NO in the constitutional referendum.

Seeing our people slowly wake up to our reality is the only uplifting thing we have right now. More and more peaceful and tolerant people are coming to believe that they can take part in this struggle, in spite of repression. Understanding that our right and our duty is to influence the construction of a better Cuba, with and for every Cuban.

If only this is the fruitful seed we need at last for a patriotic reawakening in Cubans and this 2019 is the year that we clearly see this change in attitude. Cuba needs it most urgently.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.



6 thoughts on “Another Year Lost for Cuba, Is There Any Hope for 2019?

  • I think it’s time that international help stops for Cuba. you guys need to leave the Castro out and have real election. if Raoul want to run for office put your nsme on the ballot. communist is good when no corruption but its imposible. look at Russia China there doing well but it’s because there ritch country with lots of development. Cuba as tourists and sugar. what the fuck people wake up and march together. stay strong and unite or your beautiful Island will belong to China and Russia for the dept owed to them.

    Reply
  • How do you expect Cuba to develop it’s economy having the biggest economical embargo of the world?

    Make USA suspend the embargo and then, and only then, Cuba will be great again.

    Reply
    • Charles Chaplin is right. Cuba has endured the Economic Embargo long enough.
      Cuba needs to use the once powerful spirit of the Revolution to fight back, in the only way that the U.S. understands– the power of money.
      It is right before your faces, Raul and Miguel: U.S. cruise ships.
      While the U.S. State Dept issues warnings and prohibits staying or shopping in establishments affiliated with FAR, it allows cruise ships unrestricted entry, despite the fact that docking and disembarkation fees go directly to GAESA, a arm of FAR.
      Why? Because cruise lines have strong lobbyists in Washington D.C. who reward congressmen with both cash and junkets worth millions of dollars.
      Also, cruise ship passengers spend little cash. The only result of their presence is congestion of the small streets of Vieja.
      So, Cuba, the answer to your problem is simple. Disallow U.S. cruise lines docking in Cuban ports. It’s something the Yanqui government would never expect. And it will have immediate results with Congressmen who would lose all that cruise line money.
      Do this, Raul and Miguel, and I guarantee a swift withdrawal of the years-long Bloqueo. With that, the Cuban economy will respond with commensurate economic growth, including renewed diplomatic relations and a re-opening of the U.S. Embassy.

      Reply
  • There is no hope with the incompetent communist dictatorship in Cuba.
    It will get a lot worse when the Maduro tyranny ends.

    Reply
  • What US cruise ships ? Name one that’s registered. They’re aren’t any and if there were , they couldn’t pull into port.

    Reply
  • Thank you for your excellent details views of Cuba. I did visit Cuba at the end of 2018 close to 2019.
    I did not understand all shortage in Resort and in Santa Clara. Cuban beer, Buccaneers and President was available only one day out of 14 on resorts.
    In Santa Clara, I also had to drink import beer. I could not see the logic of importing water instead of grains. Beer was first beverage introduce in Canada by the first French Governor.
    Mainly lots of water and a bit of grains. Water is in Cuba.
    There lakes close to Santa Clara and all around the Island.
    Why not buy bit of grain or grow any. This more simple then importing water and glass.
    Can use any grains, rice, weat, what ever grow, any cereal will do.
    If Government do not want make money, i suggest to lets peoples to do there own ? beer.
    One of best business in Québec province is small brewery. Why?
    You can taste many types of beer.
    Small brewery are also very popular in ROC. (Rest Of Canada). Ontario, BC all have lots of small brewery.

    Hope the best for Cuba
    But bravo for finaly getting 3G Internet. Price bit high for most, unless Resort worker.
    It was very strange that in Cayo Santa Maria, at phone company office, it was impossible to get sim card for foreigners. Most people being foreigner there, this not very logic. It should be available at Resorts.
    Congratulations also from seeing sim card Boot in Santa Clara airport. Now we start talking!
    Please take my notes with humour, Cuban do what best possible within the system, I am shure. Thid is just strange stuff I seen, that from my outside view, need a look at.

    Have a great 2019 all my Cubains friends and others.

    Reply

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