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

  • Sorry IC, but have you ever been to Paterson (NJ), or Detroit or Baltimore, Mattapan (Mass), South-Philly, Algiers (LA), Jackson (MISS), Phoenix City (ALA), Beaumont (TX), Oklahoma City, Kinman (AZ), Oakland (CA) Medford (ORE), I could go on… and seen how the majority of the People there, full USA Citizens, live? Ask the people there how they like the “American Way” and how they are profiting from the “American Dream”. You were never in any of these places (I was!), you know only Miami and even there, when have you ever gone to Liberty City along 79th and checked it out? Did you go to S.E. DC when you were in the Capital and along Jefferson Ave to the areas where the “American Way” have people living like animals and victimized by crime and drugs, disease and lack of services because they are black or brown and very poor? You know absolutely nothing about Cuba since you left except the Miami Gusanera Radio Bemba (Cuban American gossip network) crap, Fidel has now “died” 314 times in Miami. And because you were too young when you left, you did not have your own mind distinct from that of your parents. And besides all of that, you have not refuted any of John Goodrich’s POINTS (by the way, a good friend of mine); so stop demonstrating your absolute lack of anything to say and respond to my good friend John if you dare

  • What the hell is this; rambling away again, MacDuff? These comments do not belong in this forum, they are simply you talking about your favorite subject, Yourself: what you like and don’t like, what you think about the USA, what you don’t understand about the USA, how you feel about Israel and Palestine and finally how you feel about us Mutts and what we are all about (again incorrectly) in 3 short lines…What happened to Cuba? This is actually quite revealing, so let go of the mirror, pack up your wife and move from the tenebrous depths of Cuban Socialist Hell to the Happy Land of toilet paper in Sunny Edmonton, Alberta.

  • 5) The Labour Party of 1948 WAS a leftist entity that represented the democratic aspirations of the working class in the UK at that time;
    “Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer
    We’ll keep the red flag flying here”
    I know every word of its very militant anthem (since changed) and some of its history; it’s been sold down the river and gutted of its socialist spirit by now but: Frankly Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn! This is Cuba, 2015 and We have our own way of Walking, Dude!
    Cuba made many mistakes trying to apply a system of government made in the USA and one made in Russia, neither fit well so we have to invent one of our own now. Watch us build it and shut up!
    If you had been my OIC in a war scenario you would have understood the full meaning of the American-English verb to “frag”.

  • 1)It was You and Informed Consent who started and keep on bringing the lack of toilet paper as a major problem in Cuba, as if it was penicillin, and I simply made you aware how BANAL and UNIMAGINATIVE this big concern of yours really is; I’m sure IC already asked his parents/older family members and they informed him We never used TP in Cuba until very recently, in some places it never was seen before the Revolution. So it’s not like “sharing something personal”, We (Cubans) all practiced this act of simple hygiene. Your incredulous reaction to the notion really says a lot about your lack of appreciation for personal hygiene.
    2) I did not chose to leave but was taken out as a young adult after the Bay of Pigs in fear of an imminent, new invasion, this one by USA troops. The USA has had a long record of ending the People’s democratic aspirations in Cuba and any other Latin American country with an invasion, usually Marines, the famous “Walk Softly And Carry a Big Stick” doctrine.
    3) I do not “deprecate” the Canadian System”, you are generalizing in a crude attempt to put words in my writing that are simply not there. This Canadian Democratic System” is far from perfect but not too bad in the world stage unless you are an Aboriginal Canadian; then it was and to a large degree still is a nightmare. I said We in Cuba had already tried that “Democratic System” and it was a sham of corruption up to the highest level, it didn’t work. Our elected officials up to the President got their speeches from the USA embassy just before air time, parliamentarians were bought by USA $, anyone who resisted was killed by the Mafia or the secret police…I believe in Democratic Socialism, one We Cubans have to create on our own without your help or permission.
    4) I really do not care what you do or don’t do about John Goodrich or why, all I know is that your attempts at demonizing the Castro Family and the Cuban Revolutionary Government, depicting Cuba as a hell on Earth or trying to ridicule me for being clean have been clearly exposed for what they are: the single minded ramblings of a know-it-all foreigner who doesn’t even speak Our language, Mr. Gordo, tries to tell me what I am or not, criticizes everything We do and pretends he knows what we peons should be doing instead. We Cubans have heard it all before.

  • carlyle, Marino Murillo, The Chris Christie look alike who sure seems to eat well.
    I’m not a big fan of this guy but hey, just an observer so take that with a grain of salt. The only positive is he is animated and doesn’t have that thousand mile stare that is so often seen on the old timers faces. I just wouldn’t want to share a meal with Marino as it would be slim pickings after he passes the plate over!

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