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

  • Julio,

    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.

  • (incomplete last paragraph)

    Perhaps this view of Cuba was wishful thinking on Clapper’s part, analogous to the political blind spot of his much criticized failure of predicting the dramatic instability among US allies in the middle east, but not a serious US expectation.

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development

  • Mr. Ravsberg otherwise perceptive article exaggerates an already exaggerated AFP report of an annual assessment that preceded developments in the Middle East.

    ***************

    AFP) – Feb 10, 2011

    WASHINGTON — President Hugo Chavez will face increasing protests as the Venezuelan economy deteriorates and the opposition strengthens, while political instability is also possible in Cuba, a US intelligence report said Thursday.

    The dire news for the two leftist Latin American regimes came in the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, a report issued by the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper…..

    As for Cuba, “the economic situation is dire,” the report said.

    Foreign revenue coming from nickel exports and tourism have decreased, resulting in a foreign currency reserve drop that has “forced dramatic cuts to imports, especially food imports, and we have seen increases in the price of oil, food, and electricity.

    “As a result, Havana has become even more dependent on subsidized oil shipments from Venezuela and earnings from over 40,000 health workers, teachers and advisers in that country,” read the report.

    “We doubt that the Cuban economy can quickly absorb all the dismissed state workers given the many bureaucratic and structural hurdles to increased private sector employment.”

    Cuban President Raul Castro has announced sweeping reforms that include slashing half a million government jobs and making it easier for private entrepreneurs to work.

    The report noted that there is “little organized opposition to the Cuban government, and Cuba’s security forces are capable of suppressing localized public protests.”

    However it warned that “a heavy-handed Cuban put-down of protests could spark wider discontent and increased violence which could lead to a level of political instability.”

    *****************

    Perhaps this view of Cuba was wishful thinking on Clapper’s part, analogous to the political blind spot of his…

  • Just to give you more insigh
    Here is an analogy
    Imagine Fernando and I we are discussing about oranges.
    Fernando claims oranges are blue and I show him an orange and show that the orange is yellow. Then you show up and you show a red apple and say here Julio there is a red apple. But as you can see Fernando and I we were talking about oranges and the argument had nothing to do with apples. Do you get it now how your reasoning is incorrect? 🙂
    Let me know again when you need help 🙂

  • Luis, You must be blind.

    I am not sure what your post have to do with what the article Fernando writes?
    Are there injustices in other countries, Yes.

    Fernando is talking about Cuba and I am talking about Cuba why are you changing the subject?
    The question here is not about if there is or not injustices in other places or if there is protests in other places. Is about protest in Cuba. Do you understand that? It is very simple language.

    I proof with one simple video that Fernando was either not informed correctly or giving out miss information on purpose. So I have actual proof that his statements on this post are ill intentioned. 🙂 (You see Luis, how that works)
    On the other hand there is no ill intention as you claimed on my part. It will be so if I was showing for example your video and claiming that it was in Cuba. In that case it will ill intentioned because I will be telling things that are not true.
    But Luis is hard to argue with someone that does not understand the basics of rational discuss and logic.

    See Luis I am quite familiar with the type of tactics you and many like you use to defend what can not be defended.
    Does your video counter proof what I said or show? NO, your video is irrelevant to the topic we are discussing.
    This is called straw man argument a logical fallacy.
    🙂

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

    Luis, I advice you to get familiar with logical fallacies. They are quite commun and they take your mind to the wrong places if you are not prepare or know about them.
    Hope that helps you.

  • Fernando does not have a ‘selective memory’, Julio.

    All that can be seen from the video are people riding bikes, and no sign of the ‘evil opressive regime’ police beating them up.

  • Fernando, some times you talk as if you only have partial access to information!

    “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.”

    Yes but there is something in common with the egyptians you have forgot to mention. The existence of a dictatorship for 52 years. The existence of a totalitarian and authoritarian regime for 52 years. That’s the proverbial elephant in the room that you have forgot to mentioned.

    “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.”

    But protest have happend. Again you seem to have a very selective memory
    See video below

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sdr7CwQtOAw

    Please also watch carefully as police used guns, or kick their fellow countrymen.

    You also forget to mentioned what the regime does every time the internal pressure rises up in Cuba.
    The regime allows them to go. Their supposed “enemy” solves the problem for them!

    Ohh Fernando!, you are loosing a lot of credibility as a a serious journalist. Maybe you have been subjected to the Cuban propaganda machine for too long!

  • It’s great news, Fernando, that people in Cuba are now excited about setting up their own businesses. Small businesses should never have been nationalized in 1968 under the erroneous notion that only “state” property can be “socialist” property.

    Workable socialism must find a way to bring the entrepreneurial spirit into the socialist project. This can never happen with the state owning everything productive, but it can happen with the state remaining socialist while private productive property passes to those who do the work–be they cooperative worker-owners or independent small business owners.

    Thanks for an inspiring article.

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