Cuba Between Crisis and Opportunities

by Fernando Ravsberg

Checking in to travel at the Jose Marti Airport in Havana. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — Obama bid farewell to Cuba by taking away its citizens’ special immigration benefits which have lasted for half a century. Trump I’m sure will uphold this measure, given the fact that he has always revealed himself to be an enemy of uncontrolled immigration and that the Cuban migration flow has already become “uncontrollable”.

The end of open immigration to the US has had a major impact on the lives of many Cubans, whether it’s because they are now stuck en route or because they have disrupted their lives in Cuba so they could emigrate and make their dreams of prosperity come true by chasing after the “American dream”.

For those potential emigres, Obama’s farewell gift tastes like rotten fruit. However, the Castro government takes this as a partial victory in response to its demands that the Cuban Adjustment Act be revoked, in spite of the fact that the apple they have been “given” may well be poisoned.

Emigration of Cuba’s youth affects the country because it ages society, reduces the population, limits their contribution to social security and people with a high level of training are lost. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

If the new President maintains this policy, the reality of Cuba and that of the Cuban people will drastically change. It might be the greatest social, economic and political change, the greatest challenge the country has faced since the economic crisis in the 1990s.

Barack Obama has just closed a pressure valve through which the unhappiest Cubans could escape. It’s true that the majority of those who left during Mariel (1980) or the Rafters’ Crisis (1994) were economic migrants but without this “way out”, their discontentment would have become “politicized”.

The “American dream” has just become a “nightmare”, just like the one millions of Latin Americans without papers experience. Some Cuban intellectuals are asking for Cuba to become “a normal country”, as this is the usual thing in our region.

Wise people say that you should be careful what you ask for in life because you might just get it, the same thing goes for when you ask for something from the USA. Anyway, it’s not worth sulking over; the measure has been taken for better or worse, and isn’t in the Cuban people’s hands.

Several governments in Central and South America have asked the US to end Cubans’ immigration privileges so as to prevent new crises in their countries. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

Now it’s a question of learning to live with this, just like Cubans have had to learn to live with the embargo, with the few natural resources this country has and with all of the other things that aren’t within our control, supporting ourselves by using what we can control.

Cubans will have to work as hard as other immigrants and build their “dream” of prosperity without leaving the Malecon, their friends and family. They’ll have to dream about getting a little old Polish car instead of a Ford. Not so grand material dreams but without the heartbreak of leaving.

I have some friends who are a couple and self-employed, who used to only work 4 hours a day in Cuba because that was enough for them to get by. Now they tell me that in the US they work so much that “we don’t even have time to make love, weeks go by without us even realizing it,” they tell me half-jokingly.

Cuban immigration will not end but it will undoubtedly be significantly reduced, with all of the positive and negative consequences this implies. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

Obama has just covered all of Cuba’s escape routes, water will begin to build up and create pressure, we can continue to keep the country’s flood gates closed until they bust or we can open them, using their potential to produce electric energy or channel it so it can be used for irrigation.

How many dreams could come true if Cubans had to stay here in Cuba but work with the same determination of an immigrant and if the State facilitated the process of developing Cuban creativity, which is being stymied today by irrational and unnecessary resolutions and laws just like the bureaucracy that creates them.

If the valve is now closed, it’s time to take the lid off of the pressure cooker and let the ajiaco breathe, so that hope can be reborn and the Cuban people can contribute their talents to the country, for their own wellbeing and for that of their fellow countrymen. It’s within the sum of all these dreams that the Cuban dream of prosperity could be found.

4 thoughts on “Cuba Between Crisis and Opportunities

  • Cuba will never be allowed to change so long as anyone associated with the Castro family are in any position of influence or power. Castro stands for continuity, more of the same. In order for Cuba and the Cuban people to make progress for a more prosperous lifestyle for everyone, not just those selfish people who exploit their fellow Cubans by operating on the black market. The real Cuban people deserve so much better.

  • The government does not have a generation. I visit my family regularly. The expectations of the people for change has risen. No one believes the lies, not even the regime supporters. The regime has time, but it needs to make progress or face public desperate for change in failed system.

  • The Castros understand that if they were to allow Cubans to become more independent economically, the next step would be political independence. The last thing any dictatorship wants are people who want political independence.

  • Whether or not Obama has done the Cuban people a favor or not will take years to discover. Only time will tell but I agree with Fernando a pressure cooker will develop. The young people I know in Camaguey have had it up to their eyeballs with the government they are forced to live with. Something, sometime has to blow. They are sick to death of hearing about free healthcare and education for they know full well many, many countries offer the same thing. They want period. They simply want, more, they are sick of their poverty, sick of the oppression, sick of tired old men with no moral backbone telling them how to live. I have a young friend, female, stuck in Tapachula, Mexico with her father. They sold everything and they are in limbo, not knowing what will happen to them. One thing she assures me though is that she will marry the first decent person before she is forced to go back to a country that she truly loves. She and her father are just one of hundreds they started their journey with 150 others, that group is now down to 20. But they are as determined as they are desperate not to go back. For those HT followers who think the Cuban way of life is “hard but glorious,” that the revolution is wonderful, please meet and talk to a few young people there, if you can find some with the nerve to tell you how they really feel. And the revolution that you are so fond of is not a revolution it’s 59 years old. I hope that this pressure cooker erupts into something better for the young of Cuba. My fear is that another generation will be lost.

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