Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

File photo: Roberto Chile, cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — If there’s something a control freak can’t stand, it’s being unable to control something. Till recently, the only voice Cubans heard was the voice of Fidel Castro. Other members of the leadership barely said anything and they appeared devoid of ideas and initiatives. Everything came from and was conceived by the great, gifted leader.

Under a full monopoly over the media, no one was able to get a different message. For the most part, no foreigners, save collaborators from the socialist bloc who had similar ideas, visited the country. People couldn’t travel abroad either, and, if they did, it was as a State employee or émigré, which was tantamount to being banished. How terrible it was for our leaders that the Soviet Union collapsed and they had to open the country’s doors in the ‘90s to tourism! Nothing has been the same since.

To make matters worse, the capitalists invented the Internet. The Cuban government must have thought it was a CIA plot! That mad, anarchic and democratizing flow of information was and continues to be a threat to its efforts to control society. That’s why it has done everything in its power to avoid the Internet and minimize its use by the public. Little by little, however, the Internet became essential and they had no choice but to let it in. Nevertheless, wherever they offer the service, they control it with atrocious forms of espionage.

Heavy criticism and questioning from abroad and constant demands at home forced them to grant people access. To restrict its use they established the prohibitive price of 4.50 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) the hour. This is equivalent to the wages an average worker earns a week. Recently, they lowered the price to 2 CUC the hour. It continues to be highway robbery, for it still represents 20 hours of work.

Mobile phones, smartphones, new applications, email, DVDs, satellite dishes, the weekly film and series package, all of this has sparked off a revolution among the docile flock. It is no longer so easy to keep people in the dark. It is no longer so easy to have them listen to only one message. They were left only with the threat of the empire and filtering all news broadcast over conventional media, still under their control.

“Fear of the enemy and of change,” that is the strategy left to them. But now, Obama has come and says he wants to lift the blockade, put an end to the Cold War, establish relations of every kind and even be our friend. He dared offer us advice and share his ideas about how to build a better future. He dared to do even more than that, to tell us that we, the people, are the sovereign, and that the possibility of changing and improving is in our hands.

Such affront on his hosts could not go unnoticed. That is why Fidel Castro replied. Raul Castro hasn’t even said a word yet, perhaps because he’s waiting for his bewilderment to pass (so as not to react as he did during the press conference). Perhaps he’s still disconcerted.

Fidel Castro’s article, published by Granma, would be undeserving of a reply if it wasn’t a kind of official government declaration. Castro still enjoys much moral and ideological authority within the government. His comments are out of place and demented, but we are talking about a piece by the great leader. Perhaps it was written by a collective, and not even Raul Castro’s advisors dared polish it or reject its publication.

It includes a long, historical account that has nothing to do with the issues in question. He makes incoherent claims when he says that, in Obama’s mind, there are no indigenous populations, only because he failed to mention an aboriginal element that does not exist in Cuba. In Mexico or Peru, he would probably mention these populations. The article shows a marked reluctance to open up a new chapter between the two countries and an insistence on clinging to the past, spurring hatred and contempt for what happened.

In the end, he suggests the United States wants to help and hand out our future. This is equally out of place. We’re not asking for this and they’re not offering it. It is a question of trading and doing business to create the wealth we need, of putting an end to the blockade that has caused so much damage and constitutes an insurmountable obstacle for us.

Lastly, it is a question of what Obama suggests and all of us want (with the exception of the handful of Cubans who benefit from our poverty), to have Cuba change and eliminate all the internal obstacles that hold back and stifle the full development of our people.

Now, Fidel Castro, after five decades of failures, says we don’t need any advice or help from the United States, because we can produce it all ourselves. Why haven’t they done so to date, then?

I agree that our people and our country have more than the skills needed for this. I am also aware that the reason we haven’t achieved this to date is the dysfunctional system Fidel created and still defends, despite the fact it clearly does not work.

Obama set the stakes very high for Raul Castro and Fidel is the bulldog they let loose to fight for him. He’s old but he’s got poison in its spears. I say this because we haven’t heard Obama’s words again – they haven’t been rebroadcasted or published. We’ve only seen excerpts followed by strong criticisms. What Fidel Castro said, what he wrote today and what he is likely to write from now on, will, however, be published everywhere and repeated ad nauseum.

As Obama addressed mainly the young, the Party has already announced the holding of an event named Fidel and Youth. Many more initiatives of this nature are likely to come. Next month, we’ll see how the mysterious Congress of the Cuban Communist Party unfolds.

Fidel Castro’s article was a gross act of aggression against Obama. He will never forgive the US president for rousing his flock. Perhaps what the world believes is true, that he feels offended that Obama didn’t include him in his agenda. I feel there’s something bigger behind the curtains, however. I believe in the metaphor of the cockfight: Obama came for a fight and the great leader is the only contender in Cuba who can offer that fight.

He is likely to persuade many, but not everyone. Obama’s words reflected our reality and needs so well that not even a thousand articles can discredit him. They reached our hearts.

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