“Checkmate” on Castro’s Cuba and They’re Still Not Giving In

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Photo: Steven Certilman

HAVANA TIMES — The rules of chess don’t work the same when it comes to the Cuban government. They seem to be in another dimension, among the so many that modern physics describes. Hurricane Irma came to be its project-country’s “checkmate”, they had been “checked” ever since the beginning of those sadly famous Party Guidelines, and even so, they still aren’t throwing in the towel.

The Cuban economy was torn to shreds under Fidel’s government and when it was received by Raul like a hot potato, he immediately offered hope of reforms, showing signs of real interest in this reforms process.

However, the centrifuge movements of the system, where ideology and the instinct to protext privileges are above national interests, took those hope-filled plans to the dumpster. Every plan, every Guideline, every project has fallen into the blind well of bureaucracy and a political-ideological deadlock.

With the US blockade still in force and at the current pace that businesses are approved at the Mariel Port and Special Trade Zone, it will take longer than 100 years to get back their investments. Much less drive the rest of the economy forward as was expected, where tangible results were expected by 2030.

Tourism, which has entered a boom after the US market opened up to Cuba again, is facing several obstacles which can only be solved if there is a change in mentality and attitude at government-level. These are impossible things for brains muddled with extremist dogmas.

Venezuela, the unconditional partner which used to supply resources as a result of the single ideology shared by both Governments, collapsed in spite of its oil wealth. Nothing escapes disaster when a dose of the Cuban virus is administered, “the false Left’s state centralized totalitarianism virus”.

With the national GDP falling over the past two years, the only thing they had was the gasp of air that Obama gave them when bilateral relations were reestablished in the rapprochement process and the blockade was made a little more flexible. However, Trump entered the scene after the first signs of relief, allied with the most conservative groups in Cuban-American politics and has closed the shut-off valve. Even though a “few good drops” are left with remittances and other gifts, it isn’t enough to get a dead man standing, which is what the Cuban economy is in effect.

Raul has promised to end his presidency in 2018, in this electoral process that has already begun with great displays of illegality, in the interest of avoiding the nomination of peaceful opposition candidates. His leaving office is something that can happen in two ways: by death or because Raul himself decides it. It would never be possible as a result of his government failing or because the Cuban people didn’t want him in power anymore. Power belongs to them; they are the sovereign ones, not the people.

It’s a fact that Raul sincerely believed in passing on power to his committed subordinates and relatives with some political qualities, gradually. First, at the government level and then in a second phase at the Party level, which is where “power” really is in Cuba. And he thought about having some positive results to show by now. However, he only has this Dantesque landscape that is hopeless.

Photo: Steven Certilman

And things were ugly before Irma and it seems he didn’t know what to do, whether to fulfill the promise he had made or to pretend that his subordinates or “the people” won’t let him leave power. You can see hesitations in his daughter Mariela’s statements and other signs. However, “the calendar has already been ironed out,” as we commonly say here in Cuba. He doesn’t have the health to stick out another presidential term and this has become evident as a result of his absence in public after the hurricane and the poses without sound on TV, only at meetings or official receptions.

Irma has been like a “checkmate” to the fantastic possibility of reversing Cuba’s critical situation without really “changing” anything. If the country was a disaster, it is now an ordeal. The old and rusty Cuban infrastructure has been destroyed. And if the damaged economy, which is inefficient as a result of its state-centralized nature, wasn’t enough to keep itself going before, it is now a lot less likely to recover and move forward.

It’s the end of what had reached its end a long time ago: Cuba’s radical Socialist project. The end of what only “lives on” because of the strict social control that the Communist Party and repressive forces have. It has the weapons and institutions tied to them, but they don’t have positive results or popular support or legitimacy by elections, nor the people’s faith which they once had and there’s nothing they can do to reverse this situation.

Except for “real change”, but it’s difficult for them to do that: because of their pride, their meanness or their false soldier spirit, which they inherited from Mother Spain; which preferred to hand us over to the US in Paris rather than give us independence by accepting their defeat at the hands of their own children, the Mambises. Those in power now prefer a destroyed Cuba before giving the people back their sovereignty which has followed them fruitlessly for decades.

After many “checks”, Hurricane Irma is in reality the Cuban system’s “checkmate”. Few people doubt this. However, it will still take us some time to come up with a “new game” with different players. They, the Revolution or the Cuban government, however you want to call them, are dreadful losers. Like spoiled brats, they don’t get up from the table and hand over the board. They have taken it along with all the pieces and they cling onto it, pressing it against their chest saying “this is mine and I’m still playing even if I lose.”

It’s true that there still isn’t a political force here among us Cubans that can “get them off their horse” and force them to respect the rules. That’s why they are still there. But complaining doesn’t help us, the only thing that will help is to continue pushing for the constructive change that Cuba needs, with the certainty that this situation will change one day for the better. We will have to wait and see.

30 thoughts on ““Checkmate” on Castro’s Cuba and They’re Still Not Giving In

  • October 1, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Also the vendor of durofrio y piruli y turrones de coco… Those jobs are not in essence new. The black and informal market has been there for ever and it is more a supplement that a main economic activity.

    My uncle raised pigs and sell the meat when I was a child. My dresses were made by a seamstress, my grandma tutored math to the block children. And the bolita bank that nobody knows where is located, but everybody knows an apuntador. And we bought in the black market from eggs and shrimp to colchas de trapear.

    And these jobs and illegal economic activities are also in the government hands and control. When the government wants, they can put an illegal vendor in jail.

    The real economic changes were the authorized paladares, the rentals and the builders cooperative. These were substantial economic activities that were creating a middle class.

  • September 30, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    It’s the guy that walks down the street selling garlic, the guy on the corner selling Criollos, the guy who comes to repair the refrigerator, the mason and the carpenter who are building the extra room on the house, the plumber who is doing the new bathroom, the guy who cuts down trees in your yard, the many people who will raise a pig or many pigs for resale when grown, the lady selling dresses she brought back from Russia, the lady doing wash for neighbors, the seamstress that makes, modifies, and mends clothing, the lady running the daycare center out of her house for neighbors, the lady selling mani on the street, 9 out of the 10 people in my town who transport people for money without being licensed as a taxi. Let’s don’t forget the guys who sell bolita numbers, and the big money bolita banker, the guys who breed and sell fighting cocks, most of the tour guides in touristic cities, the list goes on and on and on. Basically everyone who does business or offers services “in the street”.

    None a major economic factor individually but there are so many of them that in total they are a major economic force.

  • September 29, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Read again, I have not talked about not respecting anybody. Nevertheless Cubans elderlies.

    But, it is a fact that the fight was between Cuban people. They were not fighting the USA. Look for the dead list of both sides and you will see the Cuban names.

  • September 29, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Hello Bob,

    Which are those no regulated, tolerated and government independent economic activities that can make a significant amount of Cuban people do not depend on the government? Which are those economic activities that can scape the government control ? Can you give me some examples?


  • September 29, 2017 at 3:27 am

    As I said, the various people I have met who fought at Playa Giron and in the Escambray mountains considered themselves to be defending their country against foreign backed mercenaries and traitors.
    Every single person that I have met who put their lives on the line in those two arenas told me they are 100% proud of what they did to defend their country.
    I wasn’t there. I didn’t witness these events. I wasn’t even born.
    But I have had the privilege to meet veterans of those two arenas of conflict and that is what they say to me whether you respect them or not.
    Although I cannot say that I have ever met any of them, I would expect that the losers at those two arenas who fought on the side of the region’s main aggressor are probably proud of what they did too.

  • September 28, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    I see the government being able to control only a small part of independent economic activity, those large visible ones like paladars, casas, or large agricultural co-ops. Simply looking at overall economic activity in the street, there are large numbers of people working independently without government regulation. They are all in a large grey area that is neither clearly defined as licensable nor illegal. And so many of them are one person businesses with no fixed location that they fall into the shadows. But their economic impact in total is quite large. When one looks from the bottom up rather than the top down, they are quite visible.

    This is the growing part of the Cuban population that views the government as becoming or actually being economically insignificant.

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