Cuba: Between Political Repression and the Complicity of the US Left

By Isabel M. Estrada (Café Fuerte)

A Cuban welcomes the reopening of the US Embassy in Havana on July 20, 2015.
A Cuban welcomes the reopening of the US Embassy in Havana on July 20, 2015.

HAVANA TIMES – I am a disciple of Emiliano Zapata. I don’t want bread without freedom or freedom without bread. I want both bread and freedom. I guess that makes me bourgeois.

The United States and Cuba have reopened their embassies and the US Left cannot contain its excitement, assuming the island conceals a lost paradise.

Many of us are fuming over the plethora of benefits the Castro regime is being offered without making any significant concessions. However, I wonder why we’re asking the United States and Obama to do the work for us…again.

Cuba’s situation can only be blamed on the regime, which has stifled the island for more than five decades. Everyone, however, is partially responsible as well. I firmly believe that we Cubans, particularly those of us living abroad, have plenty to blame ourselves for. We talk a lot and very fast, but we never do anything and we never miss an opportunity to go back and have our pictures taken at sunny beaches and the cafes now in vogue…and hand the government easy hard currency. And let’s say nothing of those who bribe everyone they can, with no qualms about shaking hands of dubious integrity, so that they will get a good slice of the cake, now that everything is going cheap. Nothing is quite as disagreeable as this shameless opposition.

Fleeing the Fight

Why should the United States continue to go at it in a fight that we Cubans have no trouble putting aside?

Hugo Cancio, who runs the digital journal OnCuba – a man who left Cuba in the Mariel exodus of 1980, incidentally – is taking full advantage of the situation in Cuba today. He admits most of the money invested on the island comes from Miami. As a recent article published by The New Yorker rightly explains, Cancio is a very attractive figure for the Cuban government: a capitalist Cuban-American who is also a patriot and who unscrupulously abides by the game rules set down by the Party (it’s Guidelines, as they are called), particularly if he stands to profit from it. “Cubans like Cancio have deduced that expressions of resentment won’t get them anywhere,” the article concludes.

The US Left has also discovered the wonders of the cruelest form of capitalism in this new Cuba.

It is disheartening to see how those who criticize the worst of an individualist system that devalues common efforts and penalizes the poor for their condition pile praise upon praise for the transformation of Cuba, from a socialist to a market dictatorship – or, to borrow a friend’s concept, the Stalinism-market hybrid they would have us believe is the best of all worlds.

The positive reaction towards the “rapprochement” process of the Left and right-wing US entrepreneurs demonstrates that Jose Marti was only partially right about the “tumultuous and brutal North that despises us.” It reminds me of Casablanca, when Ugarte says to Rick: “You despise me, don’t you?” And Rick replied: “If I gave you any thought, I probably would.”

The Illusion of the Forbidden Fruit

Americans don’t despise Cubans, particularly average Cubans without a dime to their names. They don’t even think about them. They only think about the forbidden fruit, the film images of Havana’s nights and uninhibited sex. Those who stick to an ideological position despite the evidence in front of them perhaps want to admire a country that stood up to imperial power, and they cling to their illusions like a hanging man to a burning nail.

Why do celebrities and multimillionaires travel to Cuba? Are they trying to divulge the island’s great medical breakthroughs, or do they simply want their pictures taken in Cuba’s vintage cars, ironically the heralds of what is to come?

Yes, US citizens ask themselves what sense there is in maintaining a failed blockade, a blockade I am also opposed to, as it is one of the hypocritical foreign policy stances the United States still maintains. There are no problems with China, but Cuba…well, it’s communist. Obama’s actions are an admission of failure. That, perhaps, speaks of the greatness of the United States.

When I get hard-headed, I ask myself why they should re-establish diplomatic relations with a brutal and anti-democratic regime. I see two options: to have blind faith in the market’s ability to bring about democracy or to be completely indifferent to the fate of most Cubans. I believe these two attitudes describe the positions assumed by the United States everywhere.

I know what to expect from the US government. What I cannot tolerate is the position assumed by my friends on the Left. If the only way to have equality in society is through repression, I don’t want that society and I doubt many people would either. We know that line of reasoning is fallacious.

Needed Relations

We condemn violence against women in India, genital mutilation in countries of Africa, the murder of women in Honduras, but we have nothing to say about the women who are beaten in the streets of Havana for staging a peaceful protest.

We fight against the United States’ overcrowded prison system and its genocidal effects on the black population, but we keep quiet about the declining living conditions of black people in Cuba, their growing exclusion from sources of hard currency and the growing numbers of black people living in poor neighborhoods or in prison.

Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba are needed. The United States doesn’t have to solve these problems. We Cubans ought to do so. The United States, however, should at least condemn this regime a little more emphatically.

On July 20, Enrique Pumar, head of the Sociology Department of the Catholic University of America, went on the radio show Kojo Nnamdi and said that the two governments should make an effort to move forward, because it is of “no help” if, in the midst of negotiations, human rights abuses continue to be perpetrated in Cuba. “That doesn’t help. In any democracy, elected leaders have to answer to the public and when people see these thing on the news, they become disillusioned,” said the academic.

I would like to know what democracy and what elected leaders Pumar was referring to. Imagine the reaction people would have if someone said that it doesn’t help that ISIS continues to kill people, that bloggers continue to be flogged in Iran or that Saddam Hussein keeps imprisoning and torturing opponents. It certainly doesn’t help those being beaten, that’s true.

Ah, but it’s not the same, see, because health and education are free in Cuba.

75 thoughts on “Cuba: Between Political Repression and the Complicity of the US Left

  • I don’t just go to Cuba, my home is there and it is where I spend the majority of my time. Yes, my wife is Cuban and I am related to some 67 Cubans. When in Canada we are in daily e-mail connection with Cuba. As one living in Cuba and at times travelling in Cuba – I have been from the Guanahabibes Peninsula in the west to Baracoa in the east, I fail to see the changes of which you vaguely speak and yes the people of Cuba have had hope for 56 years. Hope that sometime they will have liberty from a repressive regime.
    Raul Castro Ruz has said that he is stepping down as President in 2018 – no word about his military office. The Castro family regime will maintain control of all security including the CDR through Alejandro Espin Castro, Raul’s son and control of GAESA through Raul’s son-in-law and GAESA controls 80% of Cuba’s economy.

  • Please tell your friend JG, to point out even one of my “mistakes”. It is true that I am no fan of those socialist regimes that use the banner of socialism to mask totalitarian agendas. Thanks for your concern for my heart health. I can assure you that I have never been in better health and my efforts to express my anti-Castro views have only served to invigorate my ‘joie de vivre’.

  • Re-fighting the past does change anything today.

    As a country, Cuba has failed to be able to support their citizens and the government simply steals what there is available with both hands and a scoop shovel so hardly anything is left for the common citizen.

    Move on, create the country you want and accept responsibility for what happens.

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