By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
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.
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.