In Cuba Nobody Criticizes the General

Pedro Campos 

Havana fruit and vegie seller. Photo: Juan Suárez

HAVANA TIMES — During the Council of Ministers meeting held this past Saturday, March 1, Cuban President Raul Castro said: “What we do isn’t perfect. Sometimes, lacking experience in some areas, we make mistakes. That is why every matter must be constantly subjected to critical observations (…) we’ve grown used to having instructions come down from above, and that has to change. All administrative bodies, from one end of the island to the next, must express their opinions at the right place and time and in an appropriate manner.”

No one wrote the Colonel in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel – he never received the letter with the pension he was waiting for and ended up living in poverty. Similarly, no one [on the inside] is criticizing General Raul Castro’s “reform” program and he is now asking his officials to make critical observations, complaining that people have grown accustomed to receiving instructions from above. The extreme poverty of Cuba’s bureaucratic mentality has become more than evident.

Raul Castro doesn’t care to ask why this happens, but he knows. He and most of his subordinates come from the military, where one learns to obey orders without questioning them. He and his officers are used to treating anyone who thinks differently as an enemy. Cuba’s command political and economic system, its centralism devoid of democracy, and the predominance of neo-Stalinist thought within government, thwart all criticisms.

How does Raul Castro expect his appointed officers to offer their opinions now, when his “reform” process has hit a roadblock?

Is he only interested in hearing the opinions of his officers, who don’t want to or have nothing to comment?

Does he have no interest in all other criticisms, the tons of proposals and assessments advanced by Cuba’s broad socialist and democratic Left, including philosophers, economists, psychologists, historians, jurists, medical doctors, diplomats, military officers, writers, poets, journalists and professionals from all of the sciences and the humanities, people of diverse political tendencies, who grew up within the revolutionary process and are scattered throughout the country, far from the levers of power?

Raul Castro asks his ministers for critical opinions. Photo:

Is he not interested in the modest observations made by the official press itself?

It is evident the Cuban economy is heading in the same direction as the rooster owned by the Colonel in Garcia Marquez’ story, who sold everything he had and went bankrupt in order to feed him, to prepare the animal for the fight it never fought. By the looks of it, our President-General has begun to perceive signs that everything he’s been doing as part of the “reform process” could have the same results.

This is the result of surrounding oneself by bootlickers and “loyal” underlings who do not dare make criticisms, knowing that the daring few who have chosen to tell the president something he doesn’t want to hear are put on leave, demoted or sent off on “important missions” far away, where no one can hear what they have to say.

It runs in the family and the system is based on a monopoly of absolute power.

As part of Cuba’s broad socialist and democratic left, we who espouse the tenets of a participative and democratic socialism have tried to help the president find the way, but our proposals have been grossly ignored or tackled in partial, skewed or inconsistent ways.

Lacking the comprehensive political, economic and social vision needed to confront this situation, those who have been giving orders in Cuba (governing is something different) for more than fifty years, accustomed to imposing their views, having driven their docile inferiors to a point where they accept everything that comes from above, now find that their officials have no opinions to voice.

Public bathroom in a private home. Photo: Juan Suárez

If the Cuban president is actually interested in hearing something other than applauses and praise for his policies, he is going to have to look beyond the circle of his subordinates and do what he has refused to do so far: read, hear and debate the criteria laid out by the broad Left and by the opposition and dissidents he has repressed in masked, open and even violent ways.

He will only be able to take this step if he manages to put aside his old mindset and begins to democratize Cuban society, so as to allow for the free expression of diverse thinking. He will have to open the doors of the Party’s press, the official press, the only one tolerated in Cuba, to dissenting thought. He will have to initiate the much-postponed democratic debate about the type of society the Cuban people want.

I doubt he will take this step, to be honest. If he did, however, all Cubans of good will ought to be willing to participate in such a process.

Like the Colonel in Garcia Marquez’ novel, who spent everything he had feeding his prize cock, at the cost of plunging his family into abject poverty, Cuba’s military government is plunging the people into need, arbitrarily raising prices, lowering actual salaries, decreasing production in all sectors and to-ing and fro-ing without yielding any tangible results – all in the name of the “successful reform process” that, calling itself socialist, is sustained by neo-capitalist mechanisms.

With the decisions recently identified as the pillars of the reform process – the “socialist” State companies will continue to be the foundation of the economy; worker salaries will not be raised until production is bolstered, and the bureaucracy appointed from above, forced and accustomed not to voice opinions, is now being told to criticize government policy. No Mr. President, on such a path neither socialism, prosperity or sustainability are possible.

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27 thoughts on “In Cuba Nobody Criticizes the General

  • April 4, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    In 1963 Fidel admitted he had intended to lead a Marxist revolution in Cuba but he decided he had to keep that secret because the Cuban people were not ready for it.

    It is a falsehood that Fidel only decided to “go Communist” in response to US aggression. It was his plan all along.

  • April 1, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Au contraire, IC, the Cuban people DID choose, in January, 1959, their form of government, although perhaps they didn’t exactly know what they were getting into (nor, am I convinced, did Fidel and the rest of “The Class of ’59” either…they felt there way, pragmatically, towards socialism in order to make good on their promises to the oppressed, which was to say, most Cubans of that day, except for the upper-, upper-middle and middle-classes before the 1960’s (and even many of the latter, who wanted to make of their nation a better place, sided with the Revolution, a prime example being a certain famous alumni of the Belen Academy (but then again, a section of the (economic) aristocracy has always sided with the people, even as far back as Republican Rome, as exemplified by the Hermanos Grachii).

  • March 9, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Interesting nic you have there, buddy: “Ramon Mercader”, the Stalinist assassin who murdered Trotsky.

    What kind of fool would think that was a good name to use?

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