Carlos Cabrera Perez (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — Cuba is socially and economically exhausted, and neither Raul Castro nor the opposition have any time to implement the structural reforms needed to keep the country from falling off the edge of the cliff. All the while, the island’s former head of State continues to suffer from a Jesuitical short-sightedness and in his futile attempts to re-write history.
Such structural reforms demand the reaching of a consensus among all political sensitivities on the island and abroad. However, with the exception of the Catholic Church and the non-conflictive émigré community (which yields uncritically to all of Havana’s demands), the regime has been unable to build any bridges to that rainbow of political tendencies that opposes through peaceful means, insisting on its shopworn formula that they are enemy agents.
The opposition and Cuban émigré community – constantly vilified and persecuted by the regime – have a limited impact on the population because of the fear that a dictatorship inspires, the lack of economic resources and their own political mistakes, the result of untimely ambitions prompted, in part, by the Socialist, Christian Democratic and Liberal Internationals, which tend to reward those who are most faithful to their slogans.
Economic Changes, Political Changes
The widespread and mistaken belief that economic changes necessarily lead to political changes continues to crash and burn in places like Russia, Vietnam and China, where the Leninist leadership continues to control the game and keep people happy with breadcrumbs, after having consolidated their politico-military castes.
In Cuba’s case, it is clear that the struggle against corruption does not include the military (the emerging privileged class), while civilians like the former Vice-Minister for Sugar are convicted to as many as 20 years in prison. In the long term, this tactical and forceful impunity will work against the military establishment, recently exposed to hard currency and seeking to control the entire tourism industry though the Gaviota corporation.
An orderly and peaceful transition towards democracy demands a previous political consensus among all sectors, a consensus that, among other things, ought to adopt measures to buffer the effects of the transition on the most vulnerable (the elderly, the chronically ill, blacks and people of mixed race, women and single mothers).
Democracy should not arrive in Havana holding hands with the IMF, the World Bank and those who blindly worship the market and consider it the sole, legitimate regulator of society. It must, rather, be the result of a broad national pact that promotes social justice, a price system and the placing of the human capital created by the Castro regime at the service of Cuba and Cubans.
Grub, the Ebola Virus, Dengue and a Way Out
Was it necessary to smack nearly all Fidelistas away and to replace these with Raul Castro’s cronies and subordinate military officers? In order to undertake deep reforms, perhaps it was. Eight years later, however, guaranteeing that people have at least one glass of milk for breakfast continues to be a dilemma. Cuba continues to endure a two-currency system, 25% of its population is poor (according to official statistics), oil has yet to issue from the ground, and the country is faced with new challenges including food shortages, the Ebola virus [for its medical personnel aborad], Chukunguya, cholera, dengue and constant emigration through sea and air.
If Hugo Chavez’ election and the bilateral cooperation agreements signed with Venezuela buried the next-to-last attempt to achieve economic independence made by Cuban entrepreneurs with Communist Party membership cards, Fidel Castro’s survival, following several health crises that placed him at the brink of death, neutralized all of Raul Castro’s efforts to truly undertake the reform process.
The Arab Spring, the assassination of Gadhafi and the abandonment of the US ally Hosni Mubarak by Washington (which dealt the Middle East arena a blow at the most complicated moment in its history) must also have had an impact on the outlook of the Cuban leader.
This time around, Havana can’t even complain about the attitude assumed by Washington, which has opted for a low-profile policy that favors cordiality over the obsolete language of aggression, in exchange for having Raul Castro’s leadership guarantee that Venezuela does not go up in flames, that it keep the US informed about Colombia’s peace talks and that it help in the struggle against drug trafficking and illegal immigration.
The Insatiable TV Evangelist
It is terrible, however, that this chess match should be played on an island that, for months, has been on the brink of a crisis more severe than the one it experienced in the 90s, when (according to official figures) Cuba lost 45 % of its GDP. At the time, however, it still had the “war reserves” made in the USSR intact, and this served to alleviate the hunger of Cubans in those days.
A glance at Fidel Castro’s latest and nonsensical reflection reveals the political schizophrenia of the Castro regime, split between a sensible administrator devoid of charisma, who will retire a frustrated man, and a charismatic TV evangelist, who will die trying to turn his defeats into victory.
The legacy of the Castros will be difficult to manage in an exhausted and pessimistic country that is wary of change and mistaken in its belief that everything foreign is better, a country that does not even have the time for sadness.
For the time being, the island’s curia appears to have the lead, for, during Jaime Ortega’s recent visit to Raul Castro, the Catholic cardinal expressed surprise at the many empty and closed offices in the house of government, to which the revolutionary leader replied: “I’ll rent them out to ya, Jaime.”