Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
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maybe it was a bit hasty because there hadn’t been a debate beforehand) was the recognition of same-sex marriage, now withdrawn from the text.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.