Cuba: From Politics to COVID-19 and Vice-Versa

By Ariel Dacal Diaz  (El Toque)

Photo: Jorge Beltran

HAVANA TIMES – COVID-19 is the synonym for uncertainty. The road map is unclear. Its figures are a flood of unease. Science and ignorance fight against each other, in their battle against it. Common sense and selfishness take a firm stand. As do viciousness and solidarity. Our notion of what’s “normal” shatters into a million fragments.

In the fight against COVID-19, the immediate past is like an irrecoverable house of cards. The present is a stunned face. The future is the battle that is yet to come. Politics, sovereign or  subjected; the economy, orderly or chaotic; human interaction, essential or disdainful, dictate these dichotomies.

COVID-19 is a watershed. A deafening call for attention. This pandemic demands that we take a position, make a choice, define, raise our voices and hands to push the world towards the utopia we long for. It also demands that we challenge those who benefit from the dystopia that is our world.

Cuba faces this dilemma too, the challenges it brings, the need for taking a stance, the political tug-of-war, complaints and breakthrough decisions. Cubans should be speaking out, suggesting, demanding, pushing and doing things. Silence is a sin in politics. Today, a structural sin.

There are plenty of opinions about how the Cuban government has handled this COVID-19 pandemic. How, when, who and what to do at every moment, gives rise to a vast number of options and points of view. Cries, depreciation, caution, anxiety, reasonable doubt and certainty are some of the different attitudes to concrete problems: what should we be learning from all of this? What country do we want to push for?

This is one of those rare times when we need to talk about politics with a capital P and we need to make noise. Talking about its issues, the way politics are done in our country, its scope and limitations. Talking about its relationship with ethics, aesthetics, sensitivity and historic projects. Talking about possible reconciliations and unsolvable discrepancies.

COVID-19 has pulled the carpet from under the reality Cuba was planning to make progress on. But this doesn’t detract from the fact that this country was already in crisis when this new crisis rolled around, and it had very clear projections on the one hand, and pending matters on the other. Every crisis is a new opportunity, which shouldn’t be taken as an opportunity for other crises, but as a time to ammend frameworks and conditions that have allowed the current crisis to endure for so long.

The challenges that COVID-19 presents for Cuba are drastic manifestations of old, foreign and domestic dilemmas. The wickedness of the US government’s imperialist policies has also been drastic. The example of indecency, disdain and decline in international politics. No matter how shocking these names might be, they don’t hide the real efficiency of these policies in their attempt to hurt, stop and delay Cuba’s conditions for progress.

The clash between world powers is becoming more and more drastic, which moves the tectonic plates of geopolitics, with direct, material and political effects on Cuba.

Incompetence and instability in finding solutions for domestic, structural and conceptual problems have also been drastic. Questions without a response have been drastic, including: how can you keep the COVID-19 infection curve low in favorable, astounding and admiral terms, while, on the contrary, the lines and crowding because of shortages is reaching an alarming rate, exhausting the population and shooting up social tensions? Why isn’t Cuba able to produce food for its population? What path needs to be taken in order to overcome the crisis that has only been exacerbated by COVID-19?

Looking at the much-needed lessons we need to face our post-pandemic reality, I can say that the way politics is done in Cuba is changing. “Interesting” methods and content can be described:

  • greater public presence of key officials to inform;
  • growing channels of access to information on different platforms;
  • a willingness to listen to opinions and proposals coming from different sources;
  • a more active dialogue with different social agents and sectors, especially from the field of Science;
  • transparency in trial-error practices;
  • moderate use of emotional resources in politics;
  • clear and stable conceptual ideas in decision-making.

However, these signs of hope need to be further supported by:

  • adjusting mechanisms for regional autonomy, which implies a greater capacity for decision-making and education in decentralized political practices;
  • outlining steady and legitimate channels for dialogue with civil society, and the drive for organized social initiatives to solve temporary or chronic problems;
  • the government’s greater recognition of inequity and social inequality in order to make distribution policies more efficient;
  • make debates about different proposals to solve concrete problems more visible, that is to say, debate not just informing the population;
  • secure the regulatory use of the Constitution and dismantling the discretional use of laws;
  • refute the bureaucratic mindset of creating “a problem for every solution”;
  • stress the hierarchy of public over private in discourse and practice; as well as humans over profits, decency and public transparency above secrecy and lies;
  • push for the greatest production sovereignty possible, especially in the food production, once and for all;
  • reassume that the economy is not only more or less constrained forces of production, but also human relationships, fair or not.

COVID-19 came and imposed itself on the reality that preceded it, and it will leave us a reality that it isn’t really at fault for. Human behavior, collective consciousness, common sense, political decisions and their benefactors, continue to be what has the last word at the end of the day.

COVID-19, as a macro discourse, put utopia and dystopia at heads. As an imperative, it demands that we ask ourselves again: what country do we want? Let’s take advantage of this recovery phase to talk less about COVID-19, and more about politics in Cuba. To do that, there’s a crisis we need to fix.

14 thoughts on “Cuba: From Politics to COVID-19 and Vice-Versa

  • July 6, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    Sir Alexander Cadogan also reports that Churchill and Stalin had another big drinking session on 30th Nov 1943. This was subsequent to a dinner in honour of Churchill’s birthday during the Tehran summit. The party was thrown by Churchill himself therefore it is little wonder that the drinks selection was a good one (Johnnie Walker Black Label, Louis Jadot Chablis, Taylor’s Vintage Port etc……).
    Cadogan states that Roosevelt retired from proceedings leaving Churchill and Stalin to continue toasting which the did together into the wee small hours. Apparently one of Churchill’s toasts was to ‘the proletarian masses’ and one of Stalin’s was to ‘the Conservative Party’.
    When I originally said that Stalin was Churchill’s ‘….sometime drinking buddy’ which doesn’t at all mean that they were regular frequenters of the same pub. What I was referring to was the fact that they got hammered together on more than one occasion. Which is undeniably the case.

  • July 4, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    It is well known that Churchill imbibed large quantities of brandy in particular – along with his Havana cigars (remember in the Second World War, Cuba was actually an ally). That however does nothing to substantiate your suggestions. The official meeting commenced at 7,00 p.m. with a dinner and proceeded as I described according to official records, not those dreamed up by some press reporter seventy years later.

    You are of course at liberty to choose to put your own “spin” on the records of the meeting made by Sir Alexander Cadogan.

  • July 3, 2020 at 8:58 am

    Well Mr MacD,
    You are putting a particular spin on the report or you have seen a different interpretation.
    Churchill and Stalin we’re both famously heavy drinkers. I read that this session started in mid afternoon and by a certain point later on in the proceedings Churchill acquired a headache and thence forward stuck with an ‘inoffensive red wine’.
    But the only thing that I can say for certain is that I wasn’t there in person so I can’t confirm which version is the more correct.
    It would be mere conjecture if one were to suggest that their subsequent ‘naughty document’ meeting may have been lubricated by a ‘naughty snifter’ or two…..

  • July 2, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    The final of four official meetings on the 16th August 1942 between Stalin and Churchill, commenced at the Kremlin at 7.00 p.m. Later in the evening, Stalin suggested moving to his apartment in the Kremlin. There were present, Stalin, Churchill, Molotov, Sir Alexander Cadogan of the Foreign Office, Birss (interpreter) with service by Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter and a female servant, Averall Harriman the US representative was not present. Churchill was recorded by Cadogan, as drinking only a red wine. In the early hours, a roast pig was presented, Churchill did not partake, Stalin ate a lot, The meeting ended at 3.00 a.m. The Liberator aircraft departed at 5.30 a.m. for the 11 hour flight to Tehran, with Molotov making the official farewell. Churchill was gifted with remarkable stamina for a man of 67.

    Churchill having initiated the meeting following discussion with Roosevelt, , has been credited with the formation of the “Big Three” which was the basis of the allies winning the Second World War.

    Scarcely Nick a basis for “their all night drinking sessions” or “don’t know if this was their only heavy drinking session.” They had met for the first time on August 14.

  • June 30, 2020 at 8:31 am

    Mr MacD, Yes I’ve heard that one about Nancy Astor. Classic.
    I would agree that the right do not have a monopoly on racism. And I also agree that one needs to put comments and opinions within the context of the times. To an extent it is simply how people were taught to think. When I look at textbooks from the era of my Nan’s school days (about 100 years ago), it is quite shocking to see the blatantly supremacist lessons and some of the descriptions of different peoples/races.
    Some of Churchill’s comments regularly come under the spotlight because they do not appear to be casual remarks but fully thought through opinions on which certain policy preferences were based.
    It may be the case that hindsight gives some of his comments a very sinister tone but it’s also worth remembering that such comments also attracted some fierce criticism at the time.
    As I say, I am a highly critical admirer.
    His statue in Whitehall provokes a lot of debate. It often gets graffitied/vandalised. Usually within the context of these types of protests. A couple of weeks ago his Granddaughter said maybe it’s time it was moved to a museum. That way it wouldn’t be such a divisive focal point.
    If it’s some old Slave Trader then I have no issue with the statue being taken down but Churchill???
    I don’t know if I really come down either side of that debate.
    One thing that occurs to me apart from anything else is that it’s actually a very good piece of sculpture.

  • June 29, 2020 at 11:21 pm

    Churchill could never be described as a feminist supporter. His comment To Nancy Astor when she became the first woman M.P reflecting his opinion. She said to him in the House. “If I was married to you, I would give you poison.” Churchill’s immediate response being: “And if I was married to you, I would drink it.

    Interesting about the drinking session you mention, I must try to track it down. As for less savoury comments regarding race, few people were not guilty of racial disparagement much of it unwittingly, at that time. I recall as a child hearing the song Polly Wolly Doodle on the BBC radio.One of the pre-war story books we had as children, had a poem about a little black boy. i didn’t actually see a black man until 1947, but had seen Sikh soldiers in their turbans during the war. it was that memory that caused me to resign from the Royal Canadian Legion in 1991, when they considered a motion to ban all headdress within the clubs – that after Sikhs started to immigrate. I never rejoined as it was evidently racist.

    It is i think critical to understand general concepts of the time, when examining history. That concert by Paul Robeson that I attended in 1948, first made me aware of racism.

    In 1955, the Gold Coast regiment (Ghana) still had white officers, but black other ranks. In 1986, all the training officers for the Gurkhas (the base was in Hong Kong) were white. Such customs were maintained under Labour as well as Conservative governments.

    Black Lives Matter doesn’t have to look far to find democrats, socialists or communists just as racist as those of the right. They still have a hard road to pursue.

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