Cuba: Excuses & Contexts

Fernando Ravsberg

Havana Summer 2010

HAVANA TIMES, 26 Aug. — In this blog entry, I want to refer to an issue that many participants have approached from their individual political positions, and I’m sure it will generate criticisms of me from the two camps.  But after all, the objective of this blog was never to try to make friends.

On occasion, the defenders of the Revolution shield themselves from criticism by pointing to disasters that have occurred in other countries, as if the problems faced by other societies can be used to justify the deficiencies of the Cuban system.

I’m not disputing that real social, economic and human rights crises exist in other countries, but I think that the problems of others continue to serve as the comfort of fools, because that road only leads to resignation and paralysis.

The past post is a good example.  It’s necessary to recognize that many Latin American parents are hard pressed to provide a glass of milk for their children.  The particularity of Cuba is that only here is it a crime to buy milk directly from the cow’s owner.

They continue looking for external threats —be they hurricanes or the US— to unload all the blame.  It is such an unproductive stance that even Raul Castro himself said that it’s now time to stop complaining about the blockade and to begin getting down to work.

I’m certain that the US embargo causes serious economic and financial difficulties, but we all know that many of the shortages that Cubans suffer today are the products of bad decisions made by their own leaders.

Few people on the island doubt that the crisis of agriculture, the inefficiencies in services, the plummet in labor productivity, widespread theft and workers’ apathy are direct liabilities of an economically inefficient model.

However, the embargo is also a unilateral measure of Washington; one that only they can change.  Therefore —without taking away Cuba’s right to kick and scream— the only constructive position is for Cubans to dedicate themselves to solving the problems that are in hands of the Cuban people to resolve.

In the other camp, however, are those who only want to talk about Cuba, isolating it from the rest of the world; those who see every tempest in the teapot of the Revolution while justifying obstacles in the rest of the world; those who measure countries with different standards.

But in this globalized world it’s difficult to separate one country from the rest and not putting the news in context makes it impossible for us to understand what is happening.  Humanity is one, and we all share in its achievements as much as in its mistakes.  These days no one can remain isolated.

A good example is discrimination against gays, something which I have referred in more than one article. It’s a situation that can be criticized, but it’s not in Cuba where they are dealt with the worst.  According to Amnesty International, laws against homosexuals exist in 80 countries, and in seven of them they can be condemned to death.

We are speaking of a world in which Cardinal Javier Lozano (the Vatican’s former minister of Health) prophesies that gays will never enter in the Kingdom of Heaven, hoping to convince us that God too is homophobic.

Likewise, I have published several articles about corruption on the island, but I never lose sight that it’s not an evil born in Cuba.  What’s to say, for example, of the influence of drug dealers in the politics, finances and even in the security forces of Mexico?

Nor is this a problem exclusive to the Third World, as they sometimes want to make us believe. The massive fraud committed by Enron and by Bernard Madoff in the United States, or the real estate scams in Spain, demonstrate that no one can walk so free of blame as to throw stones at others.

It even appears that sometimes this is the sole country in our region where human rights are violated; dodging, for example, the accusations levied against the Colombia army for the murder of hundreds of campesinos.

Nor does it seem very coherent that they cry over the Cuban political prisoners while they justify the fact that 200 prisoners are being held without trial at the US military base in Guantanamo.  In fact they were many hundreds more individuals being held, but when their innocence was proven they were finally released…after years in prison.

The credibility of some international human rights organizations balances precisely on their ability to request an end of the US embargo, to demand the release of the dissidents and to advocate legal rights for the prisoners in the hands of the US Army.

That equilibrium seems to be the sole consistent position.  After all, the dirty underwear of others will never justify the stains in our clothes and the hypocrisy of double standards.  This would be to forget the still valid thought of Jose Marti: Homeland is Humanity.

Havana Times translation of the Spanish original authorized by BBC Mundo.

One thought on “Cuba: Excuses & Contexts

  • Good article, Fernando.

    There’s something fundamental I think you could do that would be of benefit to Cuban socialism. Regarding appropriate reforms for Cuba, you could refocus your brilliant analytical mind with a larger-than-Cuba scope. By this I mean that the reforms that would make Cuban socialism more workable are not appropriate for Cuba alone, but for capitalist countries like the US, as well.

    The question of: “How to reform the Cuban system in order to solve its economic and social problems, and protect socialist state power?” is relevant for every country. That is, what will work in Cuba should also be put forward by sincere transformational parties around the world for winning the masses and eventual social transition.

    I think that too many of us see Cuban socialism as this little flawed gem in the Caribbean that we admire and hope to protect, and hope to see shine more brightly in the future. But we ought to see it in a more broad contest, also as a valuable laboratory for designing and cutting a polished gem for the world socialism movement.

    There are only two genuine form of socialism of which I’m aware: (1) state monopoly socialism on the old model, with monopoly ownership of all the instruments of production by the state; and (2) modern cooperative socialism with shared ownership of the instruments of production between the state and the cooperatively-organized workers on the Mondragon corporation model.

    Your article, Fernando, is good, but it vectors off about mid-way through and misses the chance for a more broad, more internationally relevant programmatic focus. Cheers.

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