Today’s Cuban Regime is a Caricature of the Republican Era

Cuba’s progress introducing electricity before 1959 was noteworthy in Latin America in those years. Photo: CC

By Yoani Sanchez (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – As popular indignation grows due to the continuous power outages that affect a large part of Cuba, the authorities deploy all kinds of justifications to place the responsibility for the blackouts as far as possible from their own management. 

There is no shortage of repeated phrases blaming the US embargo, the damage caused by the fall of communism in Europe and, of course, the allusions to Cuba’s former Republican period (1902-1959) as a dark and miserable time.

Camagüey’s local newspaper, Adelante, tried to placate its readers this week by reminding them that before 1959 “Cuba only generated 397 megawatts, 397,000 kilowatts, distributed in isolated systems, not interconnected, typical of an underdeveloped country. Only 56% of the population was connected to electrical service. Data that must be put in the context that electrification was a process that had only been implemented worldwide for a few decades.

The article in the Camagüey newspaper not only hides that detail, but also avoids saying that Cuba’s electrification was one of the best in Latin America in those years. The article seeks to create in the audience a sense of relief in the face of current problems if they are compared with the situation that their grandparents experienced. A rhetorical trick that is less and less effective in a society tired of attempts to instill fear through the past. In the absence of solutions in the present and progress in the future, the Cuban regime can only be a caricature of the country that existed before Fidel Castro came to power.

With this clumsy strategy they managed for decades to silence democratic demands, assuring that an opening process on the Island would bring back the excesses of the Batista dictatorship. When the demands have turned to the inefficiency of the economic model to produce the most basic foods, the official spokesmen come out to recall the corn flour, without any accompaniment, that typified the national dishes during the Machadato.*

There are public officials who have even dared to say that a dissident or independent journalist would work as a prostitute if she lived in Cuba in the first half of the 20th century.

All this verbal juggling, which once could generate fear and social paralysis, now reaps ridicule, and ends up adding fuel to the fire of annoyance. People have stopped hanging their heads and shutting up when one of those old stats is thrown at them. Only a system without a tomorrow can believe that it is going to break an entire population by taking the ghosts of yesterday out for a walk.

*Translator’s note: The term ‘Machadato’ refers to Gerardo Machado’s increasingly repressive years as Cuban president (1925-33) overlapping with the worldwide ‘Great Depression’ which began in 1929.

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One thought on “Today’s Cuban Regime is a Caricature of the Republican Era

  • Sixty some years after the revolutionary victory, few Cubans believe the government. In the 1950s I was eight or nine and living in one of Havana’s poorest neighborhoods, La Timba, not far from Batista’s Plaza Cívica, renamed later by Fidel Plaza de la Revolucion, when I felt on a broken bottle and cut my right hand. My father walked me to the Casa de Socorro (First Aid Station) five blocks away, where a nurse cleaned the wound and put in a few stitches. When I was seven I had my tonsils out, and spent several days at the “Hospital Infantil” where poor children received free medical care and free medicine. Medical care in the country side was less available, but UN statistics show that before 1959, Cuba’s healthcare was far from the dismal situation which is sometimes claimed. Today, only foreigners and the ruling class do not suffer from poorly maintained hospitals and medicine shortages. Sadly, the great promises of the revolution have not occurred. Cuban children still wait for the famous daily glass of milk promised by General Raul Castro and many who protest are in jail.
    Frank Calzó[email protected]

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