By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — The need for democratic change in Cuba is pretty much public consensus. It’s even greater among Cubans living abroad. For those who live on the island, it’s becoming increasingly so. As our people free themselves from the utopian trance they begin to discover the limitations our freedoms and most basic human rights suffer. They also see the hypocrisy of those who ask us to make huge sacrifices while they enjoy a life of luxury along with their loved ones and friends.
However years and even decades have passed us by, and any hopes we had of change (from within the system or this system being replaced and a new chapter beginning) continue to remain very remote. Our system is dysfunctional; nothing works properly; Raul hasn’t had a satisfactory economic outcome in his 11 years as president and we have instead entered another crisis following the catastrophe in Venezuela. Nevertheless there he is, sitting firmly in his throne and inaccessible to reformist and democratic forces.
The Cuban people: tired and long-suffering with uncertain daily events; working inefficiently because they earn extremely poor wages (slave wages); emigrating to wherever they can or “fighting” in a thousand different ways, knowing that many of them are flirting with crime.
The Cuban Adjustment Act was an escape, but now it’s like it never existed, as Obama has shut down his borders to us and revoked the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy. Incredibly enough, our Government has been fighting with the US for years for us to be treated just like other Latin Americans; while other Governments within the region advocate for better treatment and legal status for their citizens. And finally Raul Castro obtained his wish.
After US-Cuban relations were reestablished, after Obama visited the island and our expectations that the blockade would become more flexible or lifted, the rest of the world advanced with their rapprochement with the Cuban government. They do this believing that they will take advantage of possible business opportunities in this country which up until now has been a virgin to capital investment and that slowly they will contribute to the end of the system by this means. However, our tyrants understand this as recognition of their right to rule us without our vote, and they take political advantage of the situation because they are very skilled in these matters.
There is political opposition in Cuba, but it’s invisible to the majority of our people; I mean to say, those of us who live here in Cuba. Of course media control is almost absolute, Cubans aren’t very well connected and social control mechanisms are very effective and they don’t allow the opposition to reach the people and tell them about their agendas. Those who do know about the opposition and sympathize with them can never, or almost never, actively take action; because they are tied to the system by threads of survival or out of fear of taking such a drastic step, which leads to social exclusion and very few prospects for success.
Both political groups on the island and those abroad have democratic agendas; and they try out projects; and they promote unions. They receive financial aid from foundations, NGOs and institutions, mainly in the US. The system labels them stateless, terrorists and mercenaries because the US is officially considered an “enemy” of the State and they have a blockade against us; and dissidents receive money from this country so as to promote a change in regime.
Truth be told, it looks really bad at first glance; and maybe it was in the early stages of this disagreement. However, for decades now, the Cuban community in the US is quite large and helps to encourage its wealth; and they are taxpayers; and they have significant political roles in federal and state bodies.
One interpretation, which isn’t absurd in the slightest, is to think of these funds as virtually coming from the taxes Cubans in the US pay, and the vast majority of them long for democratic change in their Homeland. Furthermore, US taxpayers, their people, fund many just causes across the globe and fighting for democracy in Cuba is definitely a worthy cause.
However, due to the loss of civility and the psychological burdens of thinking the same for decades, an important sector of our people (out of those of us who live in Cuba), are still afraid of change; even though they are disappointed with the unfair and dysfunctional system which the Revolution has been reduced to, the Revolution they so fervently supported.
They become even more uncertain when they see those who are set on change defend terrible causes which have nothing to do with democracy; like coup d’etats fostered against the Left (the Carmona, los Micheletti); or support US wars or illegal attacks. So, they become even more afraid and they doubt their support for this sector which seems hypocritical and believe that following them would mean entering something even worse-off. This is where the importance of ethics comes into play, despite many people believing that to defend them is for the naive.
On the other hand, we are witnesses to a mistaken Leftist plot, on an international level but more noticeable in our region, which takes Cuba as the stronghold in the anti-Imperialist struggle; and they don’t see or condemn the Revolution’s enormous mistakes; and the worse thing is, in trying to copy this meaningless thing, they end up drowning in a political sense. With such a trend, it’s clear that the extreme Left’s regeneration towards democracy is another thing we can’t hope for.
Amidst such unfavorable realities, the change that I might have hoped for doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. There is no promising future in Cuba; I can’t see it at least in the near future. What future awaits my children, who are children? So when will my greying generation, who didn’t enjoy the good things Capitalism had which our grandparents told us about with nostalgia, or the boom in the ‘80s, or didn’t leave, begin to lead normal lives?
How helpless we are! Poor us, and poor Cuba, which keeps on suffering and suffering.