By Pedro Campos
HAVANA TIMES — A brief review of the current Cuban climate reveals a sudden increase in repression against Cuban opposition and dissidents over the past few weeks since Trump made a speech in Miami announcing the changes he plans to implement in US policy towards Cuba.
Beatings, bans on foreign travel for many opponents to the regime and dissidents, arrests of some of these in their provinces, blocking independent journalists by seizing their equipment and arresting them, worsening conditions for political prisoners and TV ads trying to defame opponents, have all become daily occurrences recently.
With this response, the Comandantes of the Old Guard want people to see that they are punishing “Trump’s people and imperialism”, as if the opposition were a herd of wage earners who work for “the enemy”, when what they are really doing is using changes in US policy as the disconnected excuse they need to try and crush growing domestic resistance to the political and economic dictatorship imposed in the name of a socialism that has never existed.
With all of the control they hold over Cubans, the systematic violation of the general population’s civil, political and economic rights is bringing the country to a crucial face-off between the small group that wants to stay entrenched in power forever and the vast majority of society, including the lower rings of bureaucracy who see their chances of surviving drastically reduced.
The increase in contradictions of the social economic injustice nourished by the wage-paying State and the centralization of political power was inevitable after the Revolution’s symbolic leader died and Venezuela entered a crisis.
Cuba’s growing opposition is the result of the model, which leaders don’t want to change. It has nothing to do with foreign country’s policies.
Due to the high level of centralization of revenues and decision-making, the economic and political crisis is sparking a regression on the original cautionary reforms which were set out for the market that Raul’s “updating” process was directed at. General conditions of ordinary Cubans’ lives are still getting worse as are their expectations which were created and increased when Obama’s administration proposed a rapprochement.
Those who are holding onto power in Cuba can’t recognize the fact that the causes for the present disaster we have, doesn’t respond to the government on duty in Washington, but rather to their own inability to carry out essential political and economic changes to national policy. This, along with the fear of losing power if they do this, as well as them seeing their economy inevitably fall apart and opposition increasing proportionately, has led them to react like any dictatorship would: intensifying repression.
And so, the government fires up their “anti-Imperialism” discourse to try and encourage their followers to support them, which can also become uncontrollable, but those in power don’t really care too much about that. They are trying to blame the US government for their misfortune, like they always do, just like they see Washington behind the wave of the Venezuelan people’s protests against Maduro and his Castro-style government’s anti-democratic impositions.
If the post-Fidel leadership is calculating that by increasing repression against opponents and dissidents, they will manage to reduce Washington’s current pressures, they are probably doing the wrong equation. Because what happened at the Artime Theater in Miami, where Trump announced his Cuba policy, responds to domestic policy issues and negotiations between different forces of the Republican Party. In any case we can continue to bet on an increase of pressure against the political-military group who hold power unlawfully in Cuba, as long as Trump needs the support of Cuban-American congressmen for his own struggles.
It’s clear that lights in Havana have been cut or turned off. This increase in repression is revving up national contradictions, which don’t favor Cuba’s negotiations with Europe in the slightest, leaving behind the so-called common stance and making it harder for the international “Left” to offer their support as they have traditionally done.
If Havana wants to respond to Trump, it needs to do so in the same landscape, that of bilateral policies, and it needs to study what is happening in Washington so that it can look for how best to take advantage of its contradictions. The government’s blindness and intolerance is bringing the Castro government to a face-off on its own soil, where the pragmatists who are interested in making the economy grow are disagreeing more and more with so much intolerance.
Time is running out for State-socialism, because its self-destruction has been programmed into its system. The best thing the “revolutionary” leaders can do is to negotiate a democratic process with the opposition both in Cuba and abroad, which allows them to maintain some economic and political power, but giving the rest of social forces the space they need to show themselves and participate in the decision-making process that is everyone’s business. Waiting for Raul to step down, might be too late.
Socialism isn’t made from the State; it has nothing to do with the State’s exploitation of paid labor or with the concentration of property and wealth in an all-powerful and all-deciding group. The lie behind this injustice can’t be hidden any longer.
By insisting on holding onto their extremist position and entrenched in a “fortress” which they pretend is under siege when it isn’t, and the increase in repression could have disastrous effects on their best interests. We aren’t living in 2003. Venezuela is in crisis. There is greater internet access in Cuba now and there are greater expectations for change, as the Cuban people have lived through a lot in these past 15 years.