On the Alleged Resignation of Cubans

Yoel Diaz Barzaga*

Cuban students. Photo: Caridad

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.

The Universtity of Havana. Photo: Ernesto Gonzalez Diaz

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.

(*) Yoel Diaz Barzaga, 45, vive en La Habana, y es Director Contable Financiero de un Centro de Investigaciones. – See more at: http://havanatimes.org/sp/?p=95352#sthash.R8xvaO3x.dpuf

25 thoughts on “On the Alleged Resignation of Cubans

  • John wrote:

    “The WF-DF clause of the Cuban Adjustment Act was put in place to embarrass/denigrate the Cuban revolution by making it appear that things are so bad in Cuba that people will risk their lives in flimsy craft to escape Cuban tyranny and oppression.”

    Cubans have been fleeing Cuba ever since Castro seized power in 1959. Two later periods of major exodus were the Mariel Boatlift of 1980 and the Balsero Rafter Crisis occurred in 1994.

    The Wet Foot Dry Foot policy was implemented in 1995. How was it possible for a new law to travel backwards in time and motivate Cubans into leaving the island?

  • The end of the Venezuelan gravy train is in sight. The Cuban leadership is already preparing for a transition to alternative sources of hard currency based on trade relations with Brazil and China. If Maduro can hang on a little longer, the Cuba’s expect to survive the end of the Maduro regime. Freer travel, new investment laws and small private sector expansion are all preparations for the transition.

  • I don’t think he’ll be responding this time

  • Hahaha! Excellent counterpoint. But US national debt is only relevant if the US were in a position where, without help, we could not, in the foreseeable future, repay that debt. However, given the increasing pace of the growth of the US economy, national debt has been halved in the last five years and is on pace to be reduced by half again, in less than 3 years. Keep in mind, borrowing money is no sin. Not paying it back is. To this I would draw your attention to the Paris Club, Russia, Mexico and Fidel Castro. Finally, since most of our allies continue to choose to purchase US debt instruments as the world’s most secure investment, it would appear that they have more faith in the US economy than your pithy comment would imply. One more thing, as I am too lazy to do the math as I type this, I would direct you to compare US per person debt to per person average net worth. Then use the same calculation for Cubans. I am guessing that the “debt profile as a percent of net worth” is worse in Cuba. Wha’dya think?

  • …perhaps that also explains his daddy issues

  • The most powerful economy in the world (almost twice a large as China) is in no danger with it’s debt. And the US could never go bankrupt a la Greece because we borrow in a currency we control, so we can never run out of it. We are also protected because of the worlds insatiable appetite for our debt. Treasury bonds are a kind of money for financial systems. Banks around the world use them as collateral for the day-to-day operations. It’s a kind of money that financial systems desperately want more of.

    Cuba on the other hand has a worthless currency and is constantly trying to restructure debt because of it’s precarious ability to repay. It’s why Cuba and Venezuela are always scheming new ways to hold on to the mighty US dollar.

  • The US Outstanding Public Debt as of 25 Apr 2014
    at 05:48:13 PM GMT is: $ 17,530,622,576,887.57

    each citizen’s share of this debt is $55,111.35

    The National Debt has continued to increase an average of
    $2.56 billion
    per day since September 30, 2012!

    Moses Patterson called “Cuba, as a beggar nation…”

    yet the national debt per capita in CUBA was $ 1,780.00 (as of Dec 31, 2012). Compare that to $ 53,163.00 citizens in same 2012.
    Question for Moses:
    Isn’t it time for your “allies, the richest and most powerful in the world” to assist you already?

  • You have two volumes of Fidel’s speeches? Well, that certainly explains your fondness for clichéd slogans and rambling & incoherent diatribes.

  • So you agree with my comment? Cuba, as a beggar nation, is allowed to seek charitable relationships with whomever they please to be sure. I believe that should Venezuelan handouts cease or diminish significantly, the Castros ability to maintain the 55 year-old status quo will be greatly challenged. BTW, should the US need foreign aid, I have no doubt that our allies, among the richest and most powerful in the world, would rush to assist us.

  • Do you know even one Cuban “exile”? How do you dare comment on what interests that community? Do you have a crystal ball into Cuba’s future? What makes you write that these Cubans will “install” anything in Cuba? Under US military escort no less. Silly and baseless comment. Par for the course.

  • Yes and perhaps once the U.S. calls off its 54 year long economic war on Cuba more democracy and people’s participation will be possible .
    How much did democratic processes count when the Nazis were invading Norway ?
    The Cubans face an existential threat to their society from the U.S. and until that threat is gone, things cannot be normal in Cuba .
    AND….the United States which has a totalitarian economic form and a totalitarian oligarchic government is hardly any model for democratic systems.

  • Cuban exiles have little to no interest in establishing democracy ANYWHERE.
    The old elite in Miami want their old wealth and privilege and the same corrupt capitalist Cuba they were run out of.
    Were they to establish a democracy, the overwhelming majority of the poor people in Cuba would vote them out of their wealth and privilege.
    It’s why an oligarchy or an outright dictatorship is what they will install should they ever return to Cuba under U.S. military escort.
    You can take that to the bank.

  • Yes, the United States , the most powerful military empire to ever exist wants to eliminate the Cuban revolution and install totalitarian models in the economy while continuing with a totalitarian government as has been the U.S. pattern in Latin America and the Caribbean for well over 100 years .
    That barrier is surmounted every day that the revolution survives .
    Fidel was a master at teaching through his marathon speeches and the Cuban people took his teachings to heart .
    You will call those speeches propaganda and even were you to read them , YOU wouldn’t like or believe what he had to say but it is very clear that the Cuban people both listened, learned and believed what they were taught by Fidel.
    ( I have two volumes of Fidel’s speeches and various interviews for reference )

  • I will deal with only two points of your idiocy.
    “The US wet foot/dry foot immigration policy also serves as a release valve to ease social pressures.”
    The WF-DF clause of the Cuban Adjustment Act was put in place to embarrass/denigrate the Cuban revolution by making it appear that things are so bad in Cuba that people will risk their lives in flimsy craft to escape Cuban tyranny and oppression.
    This simultaneously with the imposition of a very high fee at the American Interests Section and an eighteen month wait for approval for LEGAL immigration to the U.S.
    This also simultaneously with making life very hard via the U.S. embargo which was fully intended to make life miserable for all Cubans who chose to defy the U.S.
    So you have a deliberately slowed-down and expensive legal immigration
    program coupled with harsh conditions imposed by the same U.S. and then the easiest, fastest , cheapest way to get to Florida is to risk one’s life .
    Were the U.S. noble about things, they would invite every poor oppressed Cuban to live in Hialeah and Miami and fly them in.
    But human kindness has nothing to do with forcing people to take to the sea in dangerous craft.
    And Moses, the only thing that you have in common with Fannie Lou Hamer is perhaps skin color.
    Your unqualified support of an economic and political system that systematically disenfranchises and discriminates against Afro-Americans puts you on the side of the guys in the white sheets and the racist establishment .
    And did you ever find out who the other nine were before Malcolm the Tenth ( Malcolm X to everyone else) ?

  • At present, Cuba piggybacks on Venezuela’s junk bond issuances. That is too say, Venezuela sells the bonds and then loans the proceeds to Cuba, thusly guaranteeing Cuba’s repayment stream. Stop and consider this for a moment. Venezuela’s debt rating is only a notch or two higher than Cuba despite the $100 billion in oil revenues Venezuela receives. The debt service alone that Cuba ‘pays’ to Venezuela for these pass-through funds borders on loan shark rates. It is not a pretty picture. Couple this faltering economic profile with lower agricultural outputs this year and tourism revenues less than projected and we are witness to Cuba’s latest Chinese import….death by a thousand cuts.

  • I could have guarenteed that your response would include the words wet nurse and Venezuela, as if somehow Cuba is not allowed to have commerical or political agreements with other countries. ( I wonder how many countries would come to the aid of the US if it were necessary, given our popularity in the world?) Anyway, I take it that you believe that a future change in the government in Caracas should be the next addition to the long, long, 50 year old list entitled ” The socialist government of Cuba will fall when __________.”

  • I can’t disagree with anything you have written. I would ask you to consider further however that African-Americans (Negroes in those days) were not more than 8% of the US population. Even so, Fewer than 5% of the Negro community, folks like my mother, were ever involved in protest marches or sit-ins or bus rides. In Cuba, I dare say an overwhelming majority of Cubans are dissatisfied with their government yet nothing changes. Racism in the US in the 1950s and 1960s was rooted in 200 years of cultural traditions and religious beliefs. The Castros maintain the status quo, as you have written, through fear and propaganda. While effective, these two motivators are far more transient. Despite this, again, nothing changes. Finally, I challenge your point about outside alliances. While the Castros have certainly been able to maintain a cadre of support even during the early years of isolation, the dissident community has also never lacked for outside support. In fact, if a true leader were again to emerge, someone with the gravitas of the late Osvaldo Paya, the pro-Cuban community would rise up to the call. This exile community of pro-democracy supporters is well-financed and would be well-equipped to assist pro-democracy Cubans in Cuba in their effort to oust the dictatorship. What is lacking therefore is that spark that will thrust some leader into the light. The barriers you write about are indeed challenging but surmountable when Cubans decide they have had enough of this Castro nonsense.

  • Dan, when that article was written, the Venezuelan wetnurse was little more than one of Fidel’s wet dreams. Had Chavez not survived the 1992 coup the NYT predictions you read would very likely have become reality.

  • There may be further shocks to the Castro regime soon enough:

    Moody’s cut Cuba’s credit rating Wednesday by one notch, citing its vulnerability to a shock rise in fuel costs arising from turmoil in supplier Venezuela.

    Moody’s also cited the risk of a rocky political transition in the Caribbean island in the wake of the Castro regime as it cut the rating to Caa2 from Caa1, well into “speculative” territory for debt.


  • I remember reading an article in the NYT magazine section in the summer of 1993. My first trip to Cuba was going to be that September. There was an article detailing life in the full-blown special period. It said that although Cuba might eventually make it through the worst of the crisis, it would take at least 5 to 10 years to do so and the people certainly run out of patience long before that. That was the conventional wisdom. I was dismayed because I admire the Cuban model and I feared I would be getting to see it first hand only when it was about to disappear. That was over 20 years ago. Things are incomparably better than 1993. The Pope came and went. Fidel stepped down. Cubans can travel. All things that were supposed to be a last straw for the Cuban government. In the meantime the entire hemisphere has moved closer to Cuba, and distanced itself from the US. So don’t hold your breath.

  • The evidence is to the contrary: Cubans are not cowards.

    I submit that you are unfair in your criticism of the Cuban people and underestimate the hurdles they have faced and continue to face today.

    As Carlos Erie wrote, the Castro regime installed itself with the twin bolts of Fear and Propaganda. The apparatus of State repression was modelled on the Soviet system and trained by the very best: the East Germans. External subsidies help keep the operation afloat.

    Populations revolt against dictatorships, not when rings are bad and getting worse, but when things have been bad but they are finally getting better. That’s why the US Civil Rights movement started in the 1950’s. For the first time in US history, many African Americans had relatively decent paying jobs. But the prejudice and Jim Crow laws still remained. That gave them the combination of hope and anger to draw upon the necessary courage to overcome. Those conditions have not yet arrived in Cuba.

    It should be noted, the Civil Rights movement had some powerful allies in the US government and media, something the Cuban people do not have. Finally, the US Constitution does guarantee rights and liberty for all. The challenge was to make the system live up to the Constitution. The Constitution did not have to be rewritten, only bad laws needed to be struck down as unconstitutional. Whites enjoyed their rights and many of them agreed that the same rights applied to blacks. It took an effort to teach the majority of whites to do something about it, but in the process, blacks gained political allies in their struggle.

    By comparison, in Cuba there are no allies among the ruling elite. The media is entirely under the control of the Party. The Cuban Constitution guarantees the Communist Party a monopoly on power. The limited rights of all the people, not just the blacks, are entirely conditional and subordinate to the will of the Party. For the Cuban people to achieve their rights and liberty, the Cuban constitution will have to be rewritten.

    Furthermore, in the civil rights era, the international political community supported American blacks (even if they didn’t grant their own minorities much love). The international liberal and Left have always defended and supported the Castro regime. The Castros have alway found a foreign source of money to underwrite their regime. First the Soviets, then Venezuela, and now remittances from ex-pats in Miami, of all places.

    All things considered, the Cuban people face an insurmountable barrier to achieving their freedom.

  • Don’t forget the open door policy of the USA serves as a release valve of sorts for the Cuban regime. I believe the Castros love US policy more than the old Cuban dinosaurs in Miami!

  • Cuba simply has not reached its tipping point. I love the Civil Rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer’s quote when asked why she chose to protest against the pervasive US racism of her era. She simply said she was “Sick and tired of being sick and tired”. Cubans are just not ‘sick and tired’ enough. The Castros are masters at giving the Cuban people “bread and circus”. Cheap rum and cheaper sex are ample distractions to keep the people stymied between acceptance and unrest. The US wet foot/dry foot immigration policy also serves as a release valve to ease social pressures. Remittances from abroad and Venezuelan subsidies mask the incompetence of the Castro regime and maintain the level of dissatisfaction at bearable. Should any one of the economic stilts holding up the Cuban economy be taken away, the situation would likely change rapidly. The only other choice is cowardice and I don’t want to believe Cubans are cowards.

  • Cuba would have been better off with more democracy and peoples participation.

  • There are statistics on the size of remittances to Cuba:

    Below is a comparative list of the most important items of the Cuban economy in 2012, as per their revenues in hard currency (US dollars).

    Remittances in cash
    $2.60512 billion

    Remittances in kind
    $2.5 billion

    Total remittances
    $5.10512 billion

    Tourism revenues
    $2.6133 billion

    Nickel exports
    $1.413 billion

    $500.00 million

    Sugar exports
    $391.30 million


    As you can see, remittances which are essentially gifts, exceed the total value of the top sectors of Cuba’s productive economy. It’s safe to assume the total in remittances grew in 2013 and is growing further in 2014.

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