Hopes and Protests in Cuba

Fernando Ravsberg (*)

Havana Bus Stop. Photo: Elio Delgado

HAVANA TIMES, Feb. 17 — The recent events in Egypt stirred up surprising expectations among some Cuban exiles.  Through Facebook they called upon islanders to rise up, even indicating the exact date that they should begin protesting.

For me it’s difficult to establish a relationship between the pyramids and the Malecon.  The problem is that we’re talking about nations with different customs, traditions and economic systems, as well as completely different sets of political actors in addition to governments that are ideologically opposed.

But in the end, this is the rerun of a movie that I’ve already seen more than once since I arrived here on the island.  The first time was in the 1990s, when people were sure that with the breakup of the USSR the Cuban Revolution would automatically disappear.

This was repeated with the visit by Pope John Paul II in 1998.  Colleagues who arrived to cover the event believed that the same thing would happen that occurred in Poland.  The fact that the majority of Cubans are not Catholic seemed an immaterial detail to them.

In 2006, with Fidel Castro’s illness, once again a flurry of “it’s finished!” was unleashed.  Notwithstanding, the transfer of power was carried out calmly and the country continued to function (I would even say that it works better than before in some respects).

US Intelligence Head Sees Protests

Now, as if they had discovered mosques in Havana full of “Muslim Brotherhoods,” US national intelligence director James Clapper predicts a wave of protests like those that pushed out their ally in Cairo.

But his prophecies do not correspond to the analyses by US diplomats in their “secret cables.”   In those, they recognized that Cuba is now better prepared to resist the crisis than it was in 1990, when the USSR disappeared.

Perhaps Clapper thinks the popular revolts are being produced in the wrong places and therefore he’s trying to straighten things out through the “co-creation” technique, with which it’s possible to materialize our desires using only the power of the mind.

This has led to confusion among many people and, as the days go by, articles are appearing in US newspapers trying to explain why a cursed uprising did not occur in Cuba while “justifying” the opposition’s immobility.

Some blame repression; others believe that Cubans suffer a genetic fear, and the most self-critical look at their own errors.  On his Facebook page, a journalist from Miami asserts that the exiles themselves are a part of the problem.

“It does a lot of damage when they broadcast messages over radio stations assuring that those who return to Cuba will demand their properties back,” said this colleague in trying to explain why there are no “massive acts of protest” on the island.

Abandoning the Battlefield

But nor do I believe that the Cuban exiles, like those of any country, deserve more blame because of their existence; meaning that by having become exiles, they have moved away from the reality they seek to change and have thus lost their influence to affect transformation.

The political opponent who abandons the “battle field” will only be able to recover the ground ceded with great difficultly.  This is such a truism that that an old military axiom recommends erecting a silver bridge for the enemy who flees.

I will wait for the date [of the uprising] indicated in Facebook, but I doubt that Cubans will follow the rebellion instructions sent to them from abroad.  As almost always, the interests and agendas of the two communities are quite different.

A few days ago I spoke with several friends about a possible uprising.  We changed the subject after we confirmed that none of us knew a single Cuban who was ready or willing to rush into the street protesting.

However, we all know lots of people engaged in the adventure of starting their own businesses – be it creating a cafeteria, pig breeding, selling hardware, providing transportation, or setting up a restaurant, photography studio, hairdressing salon or any of a host of other ventures.

They need the money since now they can stay in hotels, buy cellphones and build houses (last year the majority of housing construction was by individuals).  And especially now because soon they’re going to permit people to buy cars!

Opposition member Hector Maseda — recently freed from prison — believes it will be several years before we see any mass protests.  He thinks these will not happen “until the reforms fail, because right now Cubans are chasing behind the siren songs of self-employment.”

Though many businesses will go broke or their earnings will be negligible, most of the new businesspeople I know are convinced that the small counter from which they sell pizzas will someday become a great restaurant.

Regardless of the effectiveness that these enterprises may or may not have, the economic changes are beginning to awaken feelings among citizens that were repressed for decades by “socialist realism,” as we now see the rebirth of individual dreams and people’s hopes.

Havana Times translation of the Spanish original authorized by BBC Mundo.

9 thoughts on “Hopes and Protests in Cuba

  • March 3, 2011 at 8:17 am


    I don’t need any ‘help’ from you. I didn’t change the subject, you were the one who brought up the ‘police repression’ and I showed what true police repression looks like.

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