Cuba Is Back to the Trenches!

Fernando Ravsberg*

Havana photo by Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, April 15 – In Cuba these days we are seeing concerts in support of the Revolution, ceremonies of patriotic demands at workplaces, fiery statements in the press by readers, and speeches by those who remind people they mustn’t yield – “not even an inch.”

The country is going back to the trenches.  The siege mentality returns in the face of the “foreign threat” —embodied this time by the United States and the European Union— which in words of Raul Castro have launched an “enormous smear campaign against Cuba.”

The Cuban government seems to have conceded in advance the lost battle with the international press, accusing them of complicity, but it is preparing to extract the maximum political gain from the confrontation, calling on the island’s population to close ranks.

The best example of this is Silvio Rodriguez, an artist who sought to express an independent position by outlining some criticisms of the government.  Instantly, several international press agencies presented him almost as a convert.

Dozens of articles, editorials and letters appeared trying to push the founder of nueva trova movement to brake with the government.  Silvio’s response made no one wait – he opened the recital last weekend in support of the Cuban Revolution.

The first victim of this battle will be domestic political debate, because many intellectual Cubans don’t appreciate it when their questioning and criticism of the system are used to justify the American embargo or the common position of Europe.

The perception of some of them is that —just like in the movies— “anything you say can be used against you” by the enemies of the Revolution.  This has therefore introduced polarized language, that which leaves no space for doubts.

The statements of singers, musicians and painters evidence the atmosphere in which we live: “We’ll never give in,” “these are the times that define us, it’s necessary to unite,” “we must never kneel down” and even “if we have to take up arms, we will take them up.”

Across the entire island, firms halt work to report on the “international campaign against Cuba” and for workers to speak out against “imperialism, which has sought to destroy us for 50 years.”

The postures are becoming radicalized.  My friend —a housewife in a practically apolitical home— told me the other day, “I don’t care what happens to that guy on a hunger strike because all he’s doing is allowing them to screw with us from abroad.”

Nor is the other side contributing much to a relaxation of tension.  President Obama just authorized clandestine trips by Americans to the island to sneak in money and equipment to the dissident movement – tens of millions of dollars in total.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ruled out the possibility of understanding by arguing that the Cuban government doesn’t want an end to the embargo because “they would lose all their excuses.”  Havana responded in turn by inviting her to suspend the blockade to see if the Revolution would in fact fall.

But Hillary could have something there.  The French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “Grand revolutions that triumph make the causes that produced them disappear and, as a consequence, there very success becomes incomprehensible to the next generation.”

In this sense, the Cuban government has indeed benefited from American hostility, because this has become a permanent reminder that one of the causes that triggered the Cuban Revolution was the centuries-long dispute with the United States.

The current policies of Washington are the same as those that have failed for 50 years, which is why many believe they will continue to fail.  Hillary Clinton herself recently surprised everyone by openly recognizing, “It’s possible that (transition in Cuba) won’t happen in the short term.”

An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.

2 thoughts on “Cuba Is Back to the Trenches!

  • I am sad that Obama has not done more to improve relations. He has been putting the onus entirely on the Castros, which is inappropriate, and underplays the important role the US has played in souring relations between the two countries.

    Electoral politics plays a big part of this. Between constant Rightwing propaganda implying or openly stating that Obama is a “secret Communist” and Obama’s increasing vulnerability in the swing state of Florida, he has had less room to maneuver on this front. But that’s not really an excuse.

    Unfortunately, for America, oppossing the Castros is supporting America and Capitalism. This gets them votes in Florida, but keeps our relations with Cuba frozen forever. America makes the mistake of equating private property with political freedom, which is a huge mistake.

  • The Cold War hasn’t really ended, has it? Between the US and Cuba the tension it’s the same as 50 years ago.

    As for the remaining US adversaries, the only thing that changed is that now the ‘enemy’ are the ‘terrorists’…

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