Cuba Is a Country of Meetings

“Meetings come and go. They are just that, meetings.” – Cuban Jesuit priest

Vicente Morin Aguado

The recent Havana Fair is just one of Cuba’s many events. The question is what are their concrete results.

HAVANA TIMES — The phrase above was pronounced during the first gathering sponsored by the Loyola Center, whose forum debated about Pope Francis’ efforts in connection with Cuba and the United States.

We are waiting for the third gathering, suddenly cancelled without an explanation. We were left with the positive results of the first gathering, which included the above reflection. Cuba is number one in terms of national and international conclaves per square kilometer and number of inhabitants.

“Conclave” just happens to be the exact word, if we recall that the original meaning of the word is “the assembly of cardinals for the election of a pope.”

The interesting part of the whole affair isn’t the election of a pope per se but the fact those gathered are kept in a room, under lock and key, until they fulfill the aim of the meeting. Any similarity to recent events in Cuba is not pure coincidence.

Let us pass from concepts to reality. A good example of this is the recently concluded Havana Fair, known for its acronym in Spanish (FIHAV). What came out of this fair, concretely? Economist Fernando Damasco offers us this verdict:

“It’s curious that, after the 32 previous fairs, very little has been published about the letters of intention or commercial agreements signed, and it would seem these were never actually executed. It would be healthy for the country not to repeat this at the 33rd fair and for us not to be left with only the number of participants, and no concrete results, again.” (Diario de Cuba, November 10, 2015).

At the brightly-lit halls where FIHAV was held, there was talk of possible businesses in the agro-industrial sector. Months ago, Cuban farmers under ANAP held their last congress, closed by the Vice-Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, Machado Ventura, directly responsible for the nation’s agricultural sector. Since then, the livestock crisis worsened, sugar harvests again yielded outputs below plan and the National Statistics Bureau (ONEI) confirmed the unstoppable rise in prices.

If we were to list all of the congresses and conferences held on the island, we’d put together a volume as thick as the Bible, with pages as thin as the holy book. The Cuban Church is now demanding to see the results of the three visits by Popes over the past twenty years.

Demanding the spaces that have hitherto been denied the institution, the last issue of the magazine published by the Havana Archdiocese, Palabra Nueva (“New Word”), underscores the tacit demand caught sight in our comments: that Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba not become yet another parenthesis in the nation’s history.

We are nearing the congress of congresses, the seventh congress of the Cuban Communist Party, whose assembly processes are now taking place at the provincial levels. There’s no shortage of applause and raised hands as we wait to see whether the spell of these meetings, a political practice that has corroded our nation’s political life, will soon be broken.