By Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
HAVANA TIMES – When a woman of Haitian origin, Michaelle Jean, became Governor General of Canada, her fellow compatriots were filled with a healthy dose of pride. Born in Puerto Principe, she went into exile in Quebec because of the repression in her country. Michaelle Jean led a successful term in office and made the most of multicultural interstices in Canadian society.
This was a sign for Haitians of just how much Haitians can do. That they can get ahead to try and solve their country’s problems.
They were mistaken on two accounts. First of all, because Haitians don’t need Jean’s political success to be admired. They are a fighting, intelligent people, able to face the worst adversity without losing their ability to smile. Secondly, because Jean coming into office had nothing to do with Haiti, if we forget the former governor’s DNA.
On the contrary, it is a criticism of Haiti’s political system, of its discriminatory nature, of its authoritarian government. Likewise, the corruption and the many other evils that constitute the poorest country in the continent. In order to become Governor General, Jean had to flee Haiti in many regards.
Something similar takes place with the Soberana vaccine manufactured in Cuba to treat COVID-19. I have read articles and comments written by all types of Cubans. These include party-line cadres, surviving brown-noses and intelligent and critical people. People who have renounced the system’s graduate diplomas now jumping up and down with joy. They believe this vaccine to be one of Cuban society’s achievements. The most feverish even stretch back to the Commander in Chief’s own thoughts.
Other relegated pressing matters
I share their joy when it comes to Cuban researchers’ great work. They have worked hard, with a great deal of passion and very little compensation. Just “the satisfaction of doing their duty”, which is commendable. However, that’s as far as my positivity goes.
I believe this only has the DNA of Cuban society, nothing more, just like Haitians’ fallacy with Jean. The Soberana vaccine is the result of an unsystematic and arbitrary economy. This gave this activity priority to the detriment of other pressing matters.
The vaccine wasn’t manufactured in Cuba, but in a bubble of state-of-the-art technology. This ensured by an authoritarian political regime’s arbitrariness and lack of transparency.
Let’s look at things for what they are. The reason we have a vaccine today is because ordinary Cubans don’t have decent homes and face a food crisis. This has the island’s society on a vulnerable level that isn’t enviable at all. Cuba only exports tourist pleasures and commodities. Internet access is highly limited, and every criticism of the regime is repressed in the name of a fake socialism. The last make-up of which was washed away with Soviet subsidies in the ‘80s.
It’s always a good thing to be featured in the lead of technological innovation. But being at the front of this sector without being able to ensure Cuban people’s basic wellbeing, opportunities for personal development and freedom is a lamentable contradiction. Such is why the island is becoming depopulated, which is the irrefutable reality.
Poverty as a virtue
In short, I congratulate the scientists and engineers who managed to create a vaccine. But I also ask everyone to think about the lies of a system that proclaims poverty and austerity as virtues. While its elite (and their offspring) are becoming the bourgeoisie with their benefits from political power.
I call upon people to leave the childish nationalism behind. I don’t usually go quoting Jose Marti much, to say what I want. When will we let him rest in peace? However, I can’t help but think about something said in his book Abdala. “Love, mother, for the homeland / isn’t that love nonsense for the Earth we walk upon / it’s the invincible hate of whom it oppresses.”
Read another article by Haroldo Dilla: When Stupidity and Disgrace Take Over Cuban Universities