Cuba in Search of Lost Hopes

Fernando Ravsberg*

Thousands of Cubans leave the country each year in search of a future they believe does not exist on the island.

HAVANA TIMES — “I don’t care how bad things in Spain are. I’m not going back to Cuba, there’s no future for me there,” a Cuban woman said to me in Barcelona, where she has lived for the last 10 years. She has been working as a house cleaner since arriving in Spain and does not pay social security taxes (which means she also won’t be entitled to a pension).

A friend of mine who has a prosperous business on the island has also decided to emigrate, “because there’s no future for my children in Cuba.” He has two teenage sons whose US college tuitions he will not likely be able to afford.

Practically everyone who decides to leave the country repeats this ready-made phrase, even though it is far from accurate, as there’s a future for everyone everywhere. The days ahead of us may be better or worse, but they still await us, even after death, when we turn to dust.

Politicians promise common folk a better future everywhere in the world. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, for instance, promises she will continue to reduce poverty and unemployment, broaden medical coverage and build hundreds of thousands of homes. She offers people hope.

In Cuba, however, the future is uncertain. Nearly no one knows where the country is heading and many fear a regression to the times of Soviet-styled socialism. No few of Cuba’s self-employed have told me they have set up their business now to “take advantage of the situation while it lasts.”

People want to know how much longer they will be expected to live on measly salaries and pensions.

Cubans move forward without knowing their final destination, experiencing agreeable moments in which doors begin to open and absurd prohibitions are eliminated, and bitter ones, in which restrictions as irrational as those recently applied to private 3D home theaters are imposed on them.

As though this toing-and-froing weren’t enough, the government makes a point of repeating, time and time again, that the country isn’t undergoing reforms but a simple “updating” of its economic model. Ironically, Miami backs this assertion, saying that these are mere cosmetic changes.

However, and no matter how much people on either end try to conceal this, some root structures have been changed, such as substituting radical egalitarianism with a formula that consists in giving all citizens the same opportunities while allowing for different levels of income.

With the authorization of self-employment, a type of employment which already accounts for half a million Cubans, Cuba tacitly acknowledged the legitimacy of private control over the means of production (even though it continues to be restricted to small-scale properties).

This includes the possibility of hiring personnel, something which legalizes the operation of small companies in some production and services sectors. To facilitate the process, new businesses do not pay any taxes for the first 5 employees they hire.

The concept of “proletarian internationalism”, through which Cuba aided other countries free of charge, has been transformed into “South-South” cooperation and has become the country’s main source of hard currency revenue, securing incomes above those brought in by remittances, tourism and nickel exports combined.

The self-employed and members of cooperatives don’t know how much their businesses will be allowed to grow.

The opening of the borders has a conceptual scope that goes beyond the mere simplification of migratory procedures. It is an acknowledgement of Cubans’ right to travel and emigrate on behalf of the Cuban State.

It isn’t hard to see the changes that have taken place and it may be possible to discern those on the horizon, but the fact is that no one knows for certain what kind of society the Cuban government seeks to build.

Young people don’t know whether they will be permitted to travel more than their parents were, new businesspeople don’t know how much they’ll be permitted to grow and workers are unaware as to how much longer they will be expected to live on measly salaries and the elderly on their miniscule pensions.

After a decades-long standstill, the train has suddenly been set in motion again and is now making slow progress down the rails. The citizens, sitting inside the wagons, watch the stations go by but very few know for certain where they are heading.

This uncertainty is what makes many Cubans think that neither they nor their children will have any future in their country. It is what drives many to leave the country in search of a train with a clearly-defined destination, even if that involves cleaning houses for a living.

One cannot appeal only to people’s faith: certainties are also needed to rekindle their hopes.
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(*) Visit Fernando Ravsberg’s blog.


6 thoughts on “Cuba in Search of Lost Hopes

  • August 31, 2014 at 12:09 pm
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    The matter could be clarified by Fernando himself!
    HEY Fernando, were you fired, pushed, eased out by the BBC or were they so guilty of political prejudice that you felt honour bound to resign from the World’s leading news centre?
    Please answer Fernando and resolve the debate

  • August 30, 2014 at 8:08 pm
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    Disagreement on editorial policy….. huuuuummmmm???
    You can lure some people part of the time but not all people all the time….. you only have to see the way Fernando writes, and “drops” “casually all his castro like “information” to understand who is who and what happened…….. no propaganda agent leaves (“resigns”) such a convenient job in BBC ……. I am convinced that he was fired after BBC got tired of such an open castrofacist propaganda.

    By the way……. independent minded writer in Cuba are not only suspect but guilty to write the truth about the criminal and repressive regime of castro…. these people does not hide they are denouncing open and wide the criminal castro regimen …… Havana Times????….. I believe that (as our friend Walter Teague said) is an independent and neutral site……. do you disagree with Walter????

  • August 30, 2014 at 2:45 pm
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    Actually he resigned after a disagreement on editorial policy. This is another one of your unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. If we followed the logic of your remark then every independently minded writer living in Cuba would be supect as well, including most of the people who write for Havana Times.

  • August 30, 2014 at 8:54 am
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    Fernando was fired by the BBC for “editorial” reasons. Yet he is still permitted by the Cuban authorities to live in Cuba and write his columns. One can draw the appropriate conclusions.

  • August 28, 2014 at 5:16 pm
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    Fernando always writes thinking he writes for Cubans living inside Cuba, those misinformed Cubans isolated by regime’s iron curtain…… and he writes always dropping same bogyman regimes uses to scare misinformed Cubans about to emigrate to the “inhuman and hard capitalism way of life”………reading Fernando you can believe he is another of those misinformed and isolated Cubans but no, Fernando is a well informed journalist that has lived in many places of this world……..so, Fernando knows very well how works for american students to get financed their studies and know very well how works social security and retirement in Europe or any side of the world ……… I am sure many people wander why Fernando “exaggerate” or mystify certain things and “information” he drops “casually” …….. for example…….. I am sure Fernando knows that students in the US can get financing for their studies in several ways……3 of theses ways are the finance the good student gets from the State for free, the finance the good athlete gets from Universities for free or the finance the student that is not a good one or a good athlete gets from the State and is not for free but the student have to pay the loan along part of his life depending the salary or the income this person gets after graduation…….. Of course, you as parent always have the option of helping your child saving money since birthday and Fernando knows very well there are many saving plans that makes the life easy for parent and students…….. and always exist the natural option for the student to work along the sturdy time to help itself to pay the studies……. but I know very few people that gets no help from the state…… the rich people and the very irresponsible people…………. In Spain and the rest of the European Union (EU) no one with legal status escapes of the social security -Treasure dept. that makes an exceptional duet controlling all population’s income and existence….. do you have legal status in Europe, do you pay income tax even if you don’t work, if you don’t have income from a normal job, or self-employee job or a business……… you pay taxes even when you get social security unemployment stipend (same in the US) and…… if you pay taxes, you get retirement…… so, only if this Cuban person cleaning houses is an illegal alien (and I doubt it knowing she is Cuban) she is working without the hope of retirement regular payment ….. even if this person is a self employee she will make her yearly income tax declaration and will have her retirement payments every month sent to every country in the world she decides to spend her life after retirement …… many European with low retirement income chose to move to countries like Thailand or Costa Rica where the cost of life is very much lower than in Europe to have in such way a higher life standard…..……In Europe (I repeat) any person with legal status have retirement granted….. no one is left behind there…….and….. about cleaning houses as only option for immigrants in Europe; yes, it is almost true….. but …… Like any immigrant in Europe I started my working life cleaning for a cleaning company….. it was not a degrading job….. I am very proud of that time of my life because this job allowed me to save money to bring my family from Cuba and to start my own company in Europe, to give to may doters a very good life and to help my family in Cuba to survive castro regime hunger and destruction and to travel the old continent from east to west…….
    I doubt a lot Fernando don’t know these thing……. a lot……. why he do this?????……… I have my opinion….. but….. I would like to read yours first……. including Fernando’s.

  • August 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm
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    Castro family regime regulations are all about restriction not about encoragement of initiative. For them the problem of allowing, let alone encouraging initiative is that it is a form of free thinking. The word ‘free’ in almost any context is anathema to the family regime because their purpose is control. of virtually everything for Cubans based on socialist thought of control from the cradle to the grave. Everybody equal even if it is equal level of misery and poverty – except for we the Castro Ruz family who are in control.
    The stricken economy has no funds available to improve the living standards of the citizens, but Gaviota SA under the control of the family through General Rodriguez son-in-law of Raul, has managed to cobble together enough funding to anticipate building another 14,000 hotel bedrooms between 2015 and 2017. Gaviota SA is in fact the military under the command for fifty five years of Raul Castro Ruz.
    Whereas the citizens at large do not know where the country is heading, the Castro Ruz family is heading to the bank to further increase their wealth. How else could Rafin SA
    accumulate over $700 million to purchase the former Italian sharehoilding in ETECSA? Where is Cuba heading – to become the private fiefdom of one family! That is why people leave, they can see no better future for themselves and their children by remaining to serve their masters.

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