Cuba’s Youth and the Original Sin of the Opposition

Vicente Morín Aguado

Raul Castro affirmed: “This continues to be a revolution of the young.” Photo 26-7-2013.

HAVANA TIMES — On July 26, Raul Castro affirmed: “This continues to be a revolution of the young.” Today, when so-called Castroism lives on in his leadership, I feel that a debate on the origins of this political principle is worthwhile.

Without entering the domain of philosophy, Castroism can be understood as a political practice whose essential premise is that of achieving victory under any circumstance, particularly when confronting the most powerful of enemies. Faced with momentary defeat, one must “turn a setback into a victory.”

The speeches of Fidelistas aren’t very philosophical. Turning to the Soviet Union as an ally was simply a logical response to the fact Cuba was suddenly trading blows with a heavyweight called the United States.

I must stress that, in 1959, it was the Cuban people who won the war against Batista’s military. This isn’t propaganda, it’s a fact.

From a military perspective, that a handful of armed rebels should be able to take a city like Santa Clara seems an impossible feat. The fact of the matter was, quite simply, that all Cubans were sick and tired of Batista, and even his soldiers helped Che Guevara in his efforts.

Fidel Castro entered Havana followed by a sea of people, with Camilo Cienfuegos as his “banner.” The country become more and more polarized politically as the new, rebel leader started to put his ideas into practice.

Nixon, then the vice-president of the United States, labeled Havana’s new strong man as “a threat to the security of the United States.”

Claiming to be “non-aligned”, the young politician, surprisingly skillful at the young age of thirty-three, would begin to align himself rather clearly with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The speeches of Fidelistas aren’t very philosophical. Turning to the Soviet Union as an ally was simply a logical response to the fact Cuba was suddenly trading blows with a heavyweight called the United States.

Fidel Castro had no shortage of opponents, some of whom had fought beside him, heroically, to topple the previous dictatorship: Chanes de Armas (who had participated in the attack on the Moncada Barracks), and Comandantes Hubert Matos and Gutierrez Menoyo. These and other political adversaries would grow old in Cuban prisons.

The so called “smart classes”, dead to me forever, set their hopes on the bayonets of the US Army and sat back to drink Bacardi rum in Miami and wait for the end of Castro. They never did manage to arrive at a consensus that would have united them, whose logical foundation would have been those prestigious dissidents within Cuba.

We saw acts of terrorism throughout the Escambray mountain range, disguised as an anti-communist resistance. In Florida, exiles continue to set their hopes on the Americans, giving form, this way, to what would become Cuba’s “original sin.”

After fifty years, they ended up calling themselves “Cuban-Americans.”

In my view, you’re either Cuban or American. If you swore allegiance to the star-spangled flag, then you don’t represent me, you’re a Yankee, even when you speak Spanish to conceal this fact, ever ready to reply in English if it’s to answer a question at the House of Representatives.

To make matters worse, following the Missile Crisis, Kennedy and his successors played the card of internal subversive operations, putting aside all plans of a direct invasion (in adherence to the promises made to the Soviets).

Such a decision would prove fatal for Castro’s opponents. Schemes to overthrow the revolutionary government had no more real repercussions than securing some air time in high-ranking US programs such as Florida’s Cristina talk-show.

It’s hot in Havana, where we hear the refrain of a popular song that tells us of a woman who parties here, with money earned over there, in the United States. Pure intellectual shamelessness.

Half a century means several generations of people. Many like me, born after the revolution, have no properties to inherit. Neither do our children or grandchildren. Those who continue to claim their properties live across the Gulf of Mexico and think their old titles mean something in a country that has experienced so many changes in the course of so many years.

Young Cubans, the bastion of the changes now underway and those that will inevitably come in Cuba, comprise a generation that has no ties to those who did not entrench themselves to fight the handful of rebels who attacked Santa Clara.

Young Cubans, the bastion of the changes now underway and those that will inevitably come in Cuba, comprise a generation that has no ties to those who did not entrench themselves to fight the handful of rebels who attacked Santa Clara.

These young Cubans struggle for a pair of Nike shoes, but they are deaf to the absurd demands of Ileana Ross Lehtinen. Not many of them, I should add, read the official Granma newspaper either.

We have a debt with history, so much in Cuba as abroad, and I see that many political pronouncements these days lack maturity.

Freedom of expression is a good means of preventing anyone from feeling they have impunity to act as they wish, regardless of the other’s opinions. But we mustn’t forget that wise, biblical expression that says “as you love, so shall you be loved,” that is, that we will be measured with the same yardstick we use to measure others.

If we set out to judge the forgers of the Cuban nation, looking to uncover the wrongs they did, we might end up changing all of the faces printed on our currency, suddenly ashamed at their shortcomings, which are either concealed or divulged very little. The same holds for the United States.

General Grant, leader of Union armies during the American Civil War, couldn’t hold his wine. On one occasion, some officials lashed at President Lincoln because of the conduct of this high-ranking military officer, to which Lincoln more or less replied: find out what kind of wine Grant drinks, it might help you become as good a general as he is.

If we were to judge the general for his drinking habits, Ulysses Simpson Grant would disappear from the 50 dollar bill. Americans, however, prefer to focus on his brilliant military victories during the Civil War, which put an end to the opprobrious system of slavery in the USA.

We Cubans must begin to reflect on our lot. It is time to reach agreements, to build bridges and roads, to put aside what is not important, without thereby renouncing our right to question one another. Even the great Jose Marti could be evicted from our parks, schools and even the Cuban peso, if we began to look for and judge him for his all-too-human shortcomings.

The opponents of Castroism are paying for their original sin, the debt with history they do not want to settle, stubbornly clinging to bygone times, oblivious to reality.

In Cuba, young people have distanced themselves completely from their past. Though they have not inherited the original sin, they are duty-bound to find answers to Cuba’s current problems, an effort which requires them to look back on the hard times we’ve gone through, and to the very origins of the Cuban nation.

Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]


20 thoughts on “Cuba’s Youth and the Original Sin of the Opposition

  • Castroism isn’t only a philosophy; but a religion in which Castro is the messiah, an old, archaic and xoly savior of the world.

  • Without
    entering the domain of philosophy, Castroism can be understood as a
    political practice whose essential premise is that of achieving victory
    under any circumstance, particularly when confronting the most powerful
    of enemies. Faced with momentary defeat, one must “turn a setback into a
    victory.” – See more at:

  • Usufruct is the standard form of land ownership in the US and Canada. It permits the title-holder to conduct (permitted) improvements, borrow against this title, and transfer by sale or bequest. It normally covers only the surface (that is, not the several kinds of mineral rights beneath the surface). The state retains the ability to restrict land development and use by such as zoning and the creation of a variety of land reserves, to tax the land and adjacent improvements, to enter onto the land for such as noxious weed control, to seize (eminent domain) and to, otherwise, legislate land use and development. Cubans have a higher rate of homeownership (85%) than anywhere else in the world. Many small-holders retained ownership of their lands after 1959, and most of the rest of the land is in co-ops which guarantee wages and other benefits to their members.

  • Sorry to hear that “Galician” racism is so deeply entrenched; thank goodness the revolutionary government has worked so hard, and so successfully, to overcome it! No question that organic agriculture was, under the circumstances of the periodo especial, a no-choice choice (by the way, “Informed”, most traction is oxen, not mules), but it was a good one, and one that should be adopted universally. The large proportion of US citizens that are obese and raising fat kids is disturbing. As for the trains, Cuba is that last Caribbean nation with passenger rail service (also ecologically preferable). Given the hostility of south Florida voters to Amtrak subsidies, your trains will not only not run on time, but not at all.

  • No, Moses, I’m right again. Machado, and Batista and their “business and professional class” supporters, for example, tortured and murdered, all together, tens of thousands, some just selected at random. Accusing the revolutionary government of abuses on that scale is just fabrication.

  • The study of compensation paid to first-wave Cuban immigrants to the US, for abandoned residential and nationalized businesses is an interesting one: turns out there was lots:
    Cuban government bonds: for the reasons noted above (property owners valuing property far too low), many exiles did not condescend to accept them, but some did.
    Insurance: most of the Cuban market had, by 1959, been bought up by US firms. Although, presumably, residential claims for property simply abandoned would not be satisfied, many US- owned firms claimed and received payment, which was, for once, for the full value.
    Tax write-off: most of the sugar mills, all the petroleum, refineries, and most other larger enterprises were owned by foreigners, who wrote off their losses against taxable income at home (US mostly, but The Netherlands for the Royal Dutch Shell refinery).
    Compensation by US government: the US government put the liquidated value of all of the Cuban state property in funds that are paid out to Cuban exile claimants, the total of which is now billions. In 2012 alone, the US government reports that it seized $250 million of Cuban state property.
    In addition, Cuban immigrants enjoy immediate residency and expedited citizenship in the US, entitlements which are not available to any other Latin American.
    Altogether, and given their notoriously situational ethics, the Cuban “business and professional classes” like made claims every which way, and maybe even made a profit on the transaction! On the other hand, they will certainly need the cash if they want any medical care in the US.
    As for Bacardi, given their hostility to paying taxes, they relocated their “headquarters” to The Bahamas.

  • You certainly have a “glass half full” perspective! To sing the praises of Castro’s agriculture by extolling its ‘organic’ characteristics is like saying Hitler was good for Germany because he got the trains to run on time. Yes, despite the increasing inequities in the Cuban economy, it is true that Cuban social classes are far more closely bound than in the US or worse, other Latin American countries. But this is due to the fact that they are mostly ALL poor! Make no mistake, there are Cuban millionaires but their wealth is held in European banks and away from official reports. The ‘galicians’ in Cuba are just as racists as their Miami counterparts. The only difference is that they don’t have a NAACP in Cuba to challenge them publicly.

  • Wrong again. The Castro dictatorship has tortured, murdered, ‘disappeared’, incarcerated and harassed far more Cubans than all other governments during the republic period by a significant factor. This ‘violence’ should not be ignored. Your attempts to paint Castros’ Cuba as a better Cuba is not supported by the facts. The success that Castro has enjoyed in suppressing dissent, what you see as a lack of violence, has come at the price of personal freedoms and social dignity.

  • talk about Bold face lies; homicidal indeed! My God man, you are really full of it! Why not just go pull the UN statistics on pre castro Cuba, successful and quite advanced when compared to any Country you wish to name in the 1950’s, in spite of Batista and compare them with present day Cuba which has trouble feeding it’s own people. Whatever happened to Castro’s promise of a glass of milk on every table? …50 + years later Cuba has 1/2 as many head of cattle as they did in 1959 and Cuba’s agriculture can be considered “organic” only in the sense that the regimes incompetence still has fields plowed and harvested using mules! It’s healthcare “achievements” requires me to provide my family in Cuba with the basics, everything from aspirin to sanitary pads.. And it’s NOT free, someone has to pay for it. As Griffin quite correctly points out, with an effective tax rate exceeding 95% every Cuban pays dearly for their sub standard care! All these figures are freely available as UN figures and not easily set aside.

    But there is a silver lining to all this. All Cuban’s share the same economic inequality…they are all poor (except the ones who received remittances and assistance in setting up business’ in Cuba) You have nowhere to go but up! So stop talking down to the Cubans in Miami, we are after all the ones bankrolling the Cuban economy, you wouldn’t want to stop the generous flow of the almighty American dollar now would you 😉

  • No need to be sorry, Alicia, but you could be better informed. Prior to 1959, large numbers of Cuban emigrated (and were driven, by vicious dictatorships) to such places as New York, Tampa and Key West. Yup, the US exerted a terrible influence (not just Batista) on Cuban politics–you were responsible for Machado, too–and the succession of changes were never peaceful. The period since the revolution, and because of it, has been the most peaceful in Cuban history. Actually, the “professional classes” came from “Informed Consent”, above, and while they are not all dead, they have a terrible legacy that must not be dumped back on Cuba, what a good thing they don’t want to go back!

  • What you say is simply not true. The revolutionary government took over many businesses, in many cases at gun point.

    For example, on October 14th 1960, Castro sent soldiers to seize the property of the Bacardi family, occupying the Bacardi Building in Havana and their distillery in Santiago. No compensation was offered for the seized property. This was despite the fact the Bacardi family had supported the rebels financially. It was only after the revolution had seized their property that the members of the family left for Puerto Rico. There were thousands of other similar cases, from cigar factories to barbershops.

    Usufruct is not property ownership. It is the right of a given peasant family to work a piece of land. The ownership of these lands in Cuba were transferred from the old private landowners to the government. Under the usufruct system the lands became the property of the government of Cuba, not of the people who worked the lands.

    Finally, when will you give up the ridiculous “free healthcare and education” fairy tale? There’s no such thing as “free” government services anywhere. Somebody pays for it. In Cuba, the workers are paid a measly $20 per month, which effectively amounts to 95% income tax rate. That’s how the Cuban people pay for their “free” healthcare and education

  • No, (anonymous, predictably) “Informed Consent”, “6 million +” is not “hyperbole”; it is an outright, barefaced lie, and so typical–are you capable of anything else?. The “business class” that left has been replaced by individuals who differ in not being dedicated to homicide (voluntarios, ABC, and eager support for the murderous secret police of Machado and Batista), tax evasion, bitter racism, and bottomless corruption. Cuba’s economy has been spared the US-produced disaster of massive frauds by US banks who have sought to beggar the rest of us, it’s educational and healthcare achievements are better than yours, and, unlike the USA, it is not keeping a significant fraction of its population in prison. Cuba’s agriculture is now all organic, while you continue to poison yourselves. Your economic inequality grows ever more rapidly, increasing both the tiny numbers of fabulously wealthy and the massive numbers of desperately poor.

  • Sorry, but
    before 1959, Cuban immigration to the US was minimal compared the rest of Latin
    America, of course, with the exception of Mexico who has a history of
    immigration and emigration for hundreds of
    years. Oops, please be informed that geographers consider Mexico part of
    North America, not Central America (wrong there too). The problem with the
    everyday US citizen is their lack of or at best minimal understanding of US and
    World History. If you any any of the same, you would know that Batista was
    active in Cuban politics from 1931-1958 with the support and the encouragement
    of the US government, who at that time. controlled the politics and the future
    of Latin America. By 1953, the professional class(doctors, teachers, etc.) were
    getting sick and tired of Batista and mounted an opposition. Fidel Castro and
    his men were one of many groups that rose against Batista. The only reason he
    rose to power was because that professional class decided that only force would
    overthrow Batista. If it had been done peacefully Castro would not have risen
    to power. The professional class that you speak of are dead. Their children and grandchildren
    are US citizens who are not interested in going back to Cuba. So they are not

  • Well, I freely admit to a bit of hyperbole regarding the numbers but I am curious as to how you consider the vast majority of the business class (doctors, bankers, Merchants) a euphemism for a homicidal class? Obviously that thoughtful comment is one of the great failures of communist thought.

    It’s also curious, and telling, to know you believe it would be a disaster if they were allowed to return, since Cuba is actively courting this group for investment in the modern disaster that is that country. And of course one can only wounder that you believe modern Cuba a success, a country where many of it’s apartment buildings need to have the water hauled up in buckets!

    But you are correct in one thing….Cuba did achieve it’s objective of pulling everyone down to the lowest common denominator. Not something to boast about mind you. But Interestingly not everyone was pulled down. As the often quoted “Animal Farm” remark goes; “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

  • In fact. no one “dispossessed” ordinary Cubans in the first wave; they chose to leave their property behind when they chose to leave. They were offered compensation in government bonds (10 or 20-year at 4.5% but wouldn’t accept that because it was for their own declared value of the property which, so that they could avoid taxes (as usual, in their highly corrupt former government), they valued far too low. They could have had the true value, if they declared that and paid the back taxes, but they wouldn’t do that, either. As for peasants, there are thousands who still work their own land (their land ownership is usufruct, which is common in other countries, such as the USA). 85% of Cubans own their homes, a higher rate than anywhere else in the world. Of the rest of agricultural workers, the majority work in co-ops, with guaranteed incomes (not to mention the free education, healthcare, and heavily subsidised utilities and necessities.) The number of Cubans leaving in a year is still far less than the number of Mexicans in each and every month.

  • As usual with comments of this bent, “6 million +” is a ridiculous exaggeration, by about 600%, but, for all that, immigration from Cuba, counting only that since 1959 (and there was lots before that) is significantly less, in both absolute and relative numbers, than any of the other Greater Antilles (Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and far less than Mexico and most of the rest of Central America. Certainly “lowest common denominator” was an objective of the Revolution, so utterly different and contrary to what the “professional business class” (in this case, a euphemism for a corrupt and homicidal elite) wanted, since they thought they had arranged to get everything for themselves. Thank goodness they left; it would be a disaster if they were ever allowed to return.

  • You exaggerate the percentage of “Batistianos” among the first wave of Cuban exiles. There were some ex-officials and business associates of the fallen dictator among the Cubans arriving in Miami, but the majority of refugees were ordinary Cubans dispossessed by the revolutionary regime. Many ordinary middle class Cubans who owned nothing more than a nice house or a small business lost their hard earned property to the new thieves. There were also many former rebels who had taken up arms and fought against Batista only to discover too late that Fidel had no intention of honouring his promise to hold free multi-party elections after the triumph of the revolution.

    And you are wrong in saying that the Cuban youth have inherited the whole island. Poor Cuban peasants joined the rebels when they were promised their own land, but the Revolution reneged on that promise too. The State became the sole land owner and the peasants were still expected to work the land which did not belong to them.

    Your assertion that the Revolution “has a great deal to offer to young people who want a better world” is belied by the fact that young Cubans continue to flee the country in ever greater numbers. Over 46,000 left in 2012 alone, the highest exodus since the balsero crisis of 1994.

  • Apparently 6 million + Cubans, including most of the professional business class, who fled Cuba disagree with you.

    The only thing the [young people inherited] was poverty and misery. The Castro’s simply brought the population down to the lowest common denominator. Today this very “cerebral revolution” of yours is on its last legs, buying time with some ad hoc capitalist band aids that won’t stop the bleeding.

  • The original sinners, the elite of thugs and thieves took refuge in the U.S. when Batista, their leader, left, imagining that their sponsor–so dependable in the past when it came to bribing them, having discovered that there is nothing they would not do for money–would intervene to put them back. The US tried and failed because, finally, the people of Cuba wanted peace, unity, and equality and realised that this would be possible only with the revolution. Unhappily for your analysis, the history of Cuba is too full of rabid violence and mindless discrimination to provide much guidance to youth. Whatever its shortcomings, this very cerebral revolution which, unlike most of its predecessors around the world, did not eat its children, has a great deal to offer to young people who want a better world wherever they are in it. As for properties to inherit, Cuban youth have inherited the whole island, which they could not have done otherwise (since, before 1959, what did not belong to the US, belonged to the thugs ad thieves, neither of whom had any intention of sharing).

  • This post best reflects what I believe is at the heart of the soured relations between the US and Cuba. It is basically a family problem. Or maybe a Hatfield’s and McCoys feud at best. Relations with Cuba (or not) has very little impact on life in the United States. Like most family squabbles, it is best to stay out of it. I say do nothing, let all the old folks with issues die off, and then the young people will have a free hand to work things out. Forcing a solution in the near term will only cause more problems.

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