Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
HAVANA TIMES, October 4 — The Cuban political elite (made up of old generals, ossified bureaucrats and newcomer technocrats) has a serious identity problem.
A little over two decades ago, everything was quite clear for them. Back then they ran a completely subsidized country whose economic output depended on its political ties with Moscow. Issues like productivity, efficiency and profitability were empty slogans reserved for Mayday parades.
Later the Soviet subsidies ceased, but what was left standing was a political commitment to social programs and an intense and costly mobilization around nationalism. At the center of everything was the figure of Fidel Castro, with the aura of the founder who a portion of the population — then statistically and politically significant — still accepted as a source of inspiration, or at least a consolation.
Their problem is different now: The elite can no longer rule as before, though they want to continue doing just that. They no longer provide effective social protection and entitlements, yet they still demand total loyalty. Furthermore, they condemn paternalism but demand patronage. The current “leaders” (for the lack of a better word) fail to convince most people of anything.
OBEDIENCE MORE THAN EMPATHY
In technical terms, while the political system moves towards an authoritarian status — requiring obedience more than empathy — the elite maintains its totalitarian bent, as if it were actually in a position to command the enthusiastic allegiance of people around the promise of a new world that it can no longer even promise.
From this inconsistency is emerging a particularly systemic and repressive fervor that is attempting to devastate the opposition — no matter its leaning — while attempting to maintain “proper appearances.”
First, whenever they can, they leave the dirty work to rapid-response mobs (ones that are increasingly smaller and more deplorable), or instead of imposing 25-year prison sentences, they arrest dozens of people for a matter of hours (sleeping time included) in a psychological and ethical process of attrition that seems endless.
For the political elite, this totalitarian ambition without a firm foundation represents a permanent reduction in support and fewer opportunities at a time when these are most in need.
THE HANDLING OF THE PABLO MILANES INCIDENT
Let’s take a look at two cases (without dwelling on details, which readers are already familiar with and that I discussed in another article).
First, the issue raised by the performance of Pablo Milanes in Miami. The critical statements by PM, even in his most irascible moments, were always accompanied by “buts and howevers” that reaffirmed this troubadour’s loyalty to what he called the “revolution” (which ultimately means the Cuban political process) as well as his admiration for the so-called historic leaders and his differences with the political creeds of the opposition.
PM was never confused. His openness toward the Ladies in White was an expression of his ethical contemptuousness of the physical acts of repression used against them, not support for their demands.
The situation was particularly favorable to a good political move. If we understand good politics as maximizing opportunities and minimizing the problems, it would be wise to profit from the concert and its details.
For example, highlighting PM’s essential fidelity, generated as a net product of the revolution, he spotlighted the evening as a sign of the political bankruptcy of the “Miami mafia” and proclaimed his differences as examples of tolerance and freedom within the Cuban system. What’s more, after a while no one would have remembered his statements.
But Cuban authorities failed to pick up on these subtleties and did just the opposite: they proceeded to sick a pack of bloggers on the troubadour, with these underpaid unofficial insulters for the system and their (pro-government) spokespeople among exiles. I suppose they even gave a wink to Silvio Rodriguez, who continued to cover himself with his own mud while blatantly slinging it at his former comrade of cantatas.
In other words, they rode roughshod over the opportunity and exacerbated the problem.
WENDY STRATEGY BACKFIRED
I was reminded of another case by an intelligent Havana Times analyst, Alfredo Fernandez, who wrote Cuba Dissidents Score Win with Gay Wedding in connection with the wedding of Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada.
The wedding was absolutely political. Only this can explain the political determination of Wendy — who changed her sex under irrepressible feminine drives, and married a homosexual — to have the ceremony on Fidel Castro’s birthday (August 13), while dedicating the occasion to him, a political enemy and a fervent homophobic .
But that’s politics – and life. Yet against good odds, Mariela Castro and CENESEX kicked Wendy off the staff and refused to attend the wedding.
Even though Wendy was a product of CENESEX’s efforts and its positive influence on Cuban politics, they left everything in the hands of the dissident Observatorio LGBT organization (which they accused of receiving money from USAID) and Yoani Sanchez (who has a particularly good nose for identifying ripe opportunities).
As the HT commentator put it, Yoani Sanchez “pulled the victory from out of the refrigerator” and earned another fifteen minutes of fame. Though the truth is that she didn’t do it alone, Mariela was responsible for the dirty part.
Published originally in Spanish by Cubaencuentro.com