Cuba: Fighting for ideals, for love and for a better life too

By Pilar Montes

Photo: Juan Suarez
Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — The first reason for living, for an ideal, moves many of us who were born in Cuba or were young when the Revolution triumphed.

The ideal was brought to life in the dignity we acquired, in building the future that flourished in front of our eyes. A decade after that January 1, 1959, life began to change: our leaders got comfortable with their privilege and they didn’t lend an ear to public opinion, even though they created an office with this name.

During this time, people used to denounce wrongdoings because they were listened to, they even rose up against misconduct by officials, drivers or fellow citizens, not in anonymity but using their full names.

Institutions were created where reality and public sentiments about how the country should be led were supposedly meant to be heard: the National Assembly, neighborhood delegates and local government. However national wellbeing, defending the homeland and the unanimous support that they demanded, suffocated individuals and their everyday problems.

Productive inefficiency and low salaries, shortages and homes in poor condition have joined bureaucracy in making daily life more and more difficult for ordinary Cubans. When we thought that the end of the US blockade was on the horizon with relations reestablished, this didn’t happen either and our disillusion grew even more.

The debate that is now being held with regard to the 7th Cuban Communist party congress agreements (April 2016) has awoken the almost final effort in many to denounce wrongdoings and to propose what should be changed, because time is running out.

According to what Raul Castro has announced on several occasions, on February 24, 2018, he will leave his post, although nothing is said about whether he will remain at the forefront of the PCC (Communist Party), as First Secretary. On this day, the National Assembly will appoint the State Council (guided by the Central Committee’s proposal) which will choose a new President.

Of course Cubans will vote in their respective constituencies where they live for the delegates that they themselves put forward, however, among those proposed, there will also be the chosen one.

Exercising in the park. Photo: Juan Suarez
Exercising in the park. Photo: Juan Suarez

In meetings where people analyze these documents, including guidelines to follow with the economy, culture and society until 2030, many meetings have debated the more heated issues of national reality, causing sparks to fly.

In the media sector, where I was present, it emerged that “while the Party and the media continue to turn a blind eye and not look where real problems lie, none of these problems that we’ve spent years discussing will be resolved.”

Karina Marron, the assistant manager at the official Granma daily newspaper, and member of the Cuban Union of Journalists (UPEC), said at a meeting of this organization that “we can’t pretend that the UPEC has to make an effort so that young people are attracted to the organization, because if the UPEC doesn’t have any decision-making power, if the UPEC doesn’t have any strength, if it wears itself down by talking about the same problems congress after congress, then why should they belong to this organization.”

We can’t consider this a purely financial problem, she underlined, “there is a professional problem at the heart of this, because these young people who chose a career in journalism, didn’t choose to make propaganda or publicity, they didn’t simply choose to remain quiet and sit on the sidelines because if they had, they would have chosen another profession.”

“The only thing we have in life is our time,” Karina stated and she specified “what somebody is putting on the frontline is their life, their years, their dedication and their sacrifice, and they do this because of an ideal, out of love.”

In the Cerro neighborhood of Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez
In the Cerro neighborhood of Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

She recognized that “there are people who simply decide that they aren’t willing to do it because they don’t believe in this future, because they don’t see any way of changing this” and the sad thing is that “among this group, there are young people who opt for a better life and it pains us to know that they don’t see this future by our side.”

“Maybe they do it because of financial incentives that we’ve already talked about, but this isn’t the only motive, and this is something that we can’t lose sight of, and I insist, if we continue to look the other way, we will never see the blow that’s heading our way that is going to hit us where it’ll kill us,” Marron warned her audience, who was applauded extensively.

And keeping one thing clear, the US will continue to be there, their leaders will never lose hope of changing our system, but the best antidote is to be more skillful negotiators, efficient and productive, like Vietnam did back in the day.