Yoel Diaz Barzaga*
HAVANA TIMES — Some Havana Times commentators and regular contributors have made a habit of inciting Cubans living on the island to express their true feelings about the country’s situation with more sincerity.
Some go as far as offending others, prophesizing and declaring what we should or should not do to change Cuba’s current state of affairs – or, in the best of cases, how to defeat and oust its communist dictatorship. Plenty of formulas are thrown around, but nothing concrete is ultimately said.
These commentators don’t understand why a vast majority of people passively accept decisions, whims and idiotic policies that are turned into laws and decrees and which, many a time, rather than lighten the load we carry, only make getting by in our nation more and more difficult.
In my very personal opinion, we Cubans are not so resigned. Nearly 150 years of historical struggles should suffice to dispel any doubts in this connection. The Cuban people have demonstrated that they know how to cast off any government, system or tyranny which doesn’t bring them any objective benefits, the easy or the hard way.
What’s happening to us, then? Have we grown old? Do we really have no bones to pick? Are we actually all in favor of the current system and government? I believe the answer to all three questions is no.
Young people, the unstoppable locomotive of any revolutionary process or change, whose impetus, courage and rebelliousness are a motive force to be reckoned with everywhere, are practically what they were in earlier generations.
However, these young people, most of who identify with their student leaders, do not feel the need to take to streets to make political demands on the government, as people are doing in Venezuela or the Ukraine.
The Cuban government has known how to cleverly channel the adrenaline of the country’s youth, so that it will not become the source of rebelliousness of times past, nor the raw material for the numerous media campaigns and violent plans against Cuba.
Study and more study. Opportunities for professional advancement that are unthinkable in other countries. Young people today are entirely absorbed by Cuba’s current academic system, whose schedules leave very little free time for extra-curricular activities other than sports and recreation. The State regulates and monitors the education received by all children and young people and make parents responsible for ensuring their kids remain in school.
Many young Cubans are apolitical. They may be in favor or against the government, but their main concern today is to have fun while they’re still young – as much as they can, of course. Despite the opening up of Cuban media, there isn’t much information about the outside world at hand. Representatives of the Young Communists League (UJC), tasked with organizing recreational activities for the young, have created spaces for healthy forms of entertainment where prices are relatively low when compared to other places.
That said, it is still common for young people to emigrate to other nations on completing their studies (there are no clear-cut statistics on this phenomenon, as has been written in this site).
The new generations continue to like the idea of getting ahead through their own efforts, having their own money, living without restrictions – traveling, getting to know the world and new cultures. They want to do things that are considered normal in other countries and return to the place of their birth. Few are those who imagine a future far from Cuba, its people and its culture.
When all is said and done, these young people don’t have to worry about food or clothing – their parents take care of all that, in most cases.
Cases of violence in Cuba are isolated and restrained. There are no organized groups of young people working to undermine the system violently. Neither the dissidents nor the US government have managed to organize such groups, and I don’t believe they will ever manage it. It is true some people participate in counterrevolutionary actions, but the majority of students and workers do not.
We all have problems. Our salaries aren’t enough to live on and neither are the rationed products we get. A civil war, however, would be a bigger problem – unrest, pillaging, robbery, death, chaos. Cubans today are family-loving people and unprepared to suffer the loss of their loved ones. Seen from the outside, everything seems easy enough. Inside, however, very few would actually dare take on any violent action.
If Cubans have managed to endure just about everything so far, it is also thanks to those Cubans living abroad. Though there are no official economic statistics for this, the remittances sent by Cubans abroad constitute an important pillar of the domestic economy – hypocritical in its dying monetary duality and triumphalist in its projections for the future.
We cannot say that the revolutionary leadership enjoys a great deal of popularity today. Nor can we say, however, that it is wholly unpopular. We must acknowledge that it has known how to skirt obstacles skillfully, maintain its prestige and helpful international relations and alliances.
What has kept this leadership in power, in my humble opinion, is the civil tranquility that prevails on the island, as well as government aid for society’s vulnerable sectors (such as children and the elderly).
It is also owed to the constant internal vigilance that many call repression, and to a well-structured system for the training of cadres and leaders who may think differently but whose interests are those of the revolution right now, people who are the essential components of the current system and its way of life.
That is why I believe we will be seeing more of the same for the time being.
(*) Yoel Diaz Barzaga, 45, lives in Havana and is the chief financial officer of a research center.