Who Defends Ordinary Cubans?

Photo: Nester Nuñez / LJC

By Arturo Mesa (Joven Cuba)

HAVANA TIMES – Many of the issues Cuban society is discussing today has to do with how the highest circles of power are managing the economy. There has been a lot of misunderstanding about issues that affect the population and, as a result, the Government has chosen to accuse every critical voice of being “a paid agent and pawn in a foreign agenda for change.” In reality, the first people to disrespect agreements considered by all of society, are the very instigators of this much-needed change.

If we go back to 2011, it’s worth recalling that the country carried out an exemplary exercise of civic engagement by putting a series of policies called “Guidelines” to a public debate, which meant taking a qualitative and quantitative leap in terms of production and development.

A Committee was created to implement what was discussed and proposed. The committee made mistakes, as Raul Castro would then state in his Central Report to the 8th PCC Congress in April 2021. He pointed out that: “The Permanent Implementation and Development Committee didn’t manage to properly organize participation of different actors involved in the implementation of these Guidelines.” However, while its mistakes were not made official, criticism pointing at the Implementation Committee, headed by Marino Murillo, were discredited as they were seen as malicious.  

So, the question becomes clear: Who defends an ordinary citizen against these kinds of charges, or what real power does a citizen have to make real change that benefits the country?

Just read the aforementioned Guidelines, from 240-254, to understand that the people who should have implemented changes to benefit the country did absolutely nothing, while people who criticized this lack of action or focus were accused of being enemies.  

Let’s take a look at Guideline no. 242, for example: Significantly increase the efficiency in electricity generation, dedicating the necessary attention and resources to operating plants. This was promoted almost twelve years ago – a long time before Trump, his 243 measures to tighten the embargo and the COVID-19 pandemic -, and what’s happened?  

What happened to the intention to increase electricity generation using renewable energy sources? Where was the real obstacle to national progress? Who pays for the hours we’ve suffered without electricity this year, because they didn’t comply with what had already been agreed? What possibilities does a person removed from institutions of power really have to make a formal complaint?  In other words: Who defends us?

Let’s say you see these measures as dating back a long time ago and that a pandemic also came and changed priorities. Sticking to this logic, my next move would be to look at the latest document about the Guidelines and Conceptualization of the Revolution, presented in June 2021, after the 8th Cuban Communist Party Congress – which took place in April that year – and entitled: “Conceptualization of Cuba’s Socio-Economic model of Socialist Development.  Guidelines for the Party and Revolution’s Economic and Social Policies for the 2021-2026 Period.”

This new document changed national strategy completely, bearing in mind that very few guidelines from the original document were kept intact. After reading it, we can verify that new promises begin to move away from its proposals.

For example, points relating to employment for the 2021-2026 period foresee: “getting the private sector to contribute effectively to national socio-economic development, especially at a local level, as well as being an alternative source for employment; linking its production with industry, other sectors and national production activities and foreign investment.”

Despite this proposal, we have seen today how tax benefits for new small and medium size private businesses have been cut, and how the approval rate of these kinds of enterprises has been cut which endangers the consolidation of this budding sector from the very beginning. This results in a negative impact on the country’s socio-economic development. Who protects these future business owners and us from the impact of not having new options? In short, we must ask yet again: Who defends us?  

Another point has to do with Guidelines concerned with the agro-industrial policy drawn up in 2021. There are 17 sections in total and nothing significant has been done in the field of food production up until today, on the contrary, shortages remain and prices continue to rise. Let’s read what one of these 17 Guidelines stipulates, no. 123:

“Increasing sustainable production of root vegetables, leafy greens, grains, fruit, and medicinal plants, establishing production centers and linking them with industry, tourism, supplying large cities and for export. Production for domestic consumption by the population will have a regional focus, integrating mini-industries and being supported by the Urban, Suburban and Family Farming Program.”  

If this was approved as the food policy and focus for this present period in time, how can the minister of Economy then say that this year “we can’t give resources for Agriculture.” This is where they begin to disrespect what has been agreed, and the population loses hope and then jokes begin that annoy them, the decision-makers, so much.  

I believe that there has been and still is a great gap between what is conceived as development policy; that is to say, it isn’t consistent with structural priorities, and that affects every single one of us. That said, the thing that hurts us the most is the inexistence of a discussion space where we can challenge these actions and get a real answer, or at least a real promise that they will make amends.  

Another policy announced in the latest Guidelines explains that prosperity and wellbeing are linked to many factors, the most important being: “Consolidating and enriching values of our society, justice and social equity, equal opportunities and access to these, non-discrimination for any difference that hurts human dignity.”

Nevertheless, and despite this statement, people are still being kicked out of places of work, and human dignity is being hurt as people are being denied the opportunity to develop professionally or to use the knowledge they’ve acquired during their years studying and training to make a decent living. Accusations range from “being paid off by the Empire” to “counter-revolutionary”, even when these people are the ones warning that there is a rift in strategy and that the real danger to national prosperity is failing to respect what has been sealed in ink.  

I can’t finish this analysis without recognizing the harm the US blockade has caused, but a government body exists to find solutions; and if that first series of solutions in 2011 was wiped out in a flash, and the latest one isn’t upheld over time, who is going to defend us in another ten-years’ time under this “trial and error” rule of power.

Who defends us from the harm caused by the people who sell places in the lines, the inspectors, and the people who oversee the inspectors?

Who defends us against the psychological damage caused by saying that the country is making progress when inflation is through the roof and isn’t giving in? Who defends us from statements such as: “What we bring in with dollar stores, will be used to stock up Cuban peso stores”? What year do we have to wait until for the current Government – sitting calmly in power – to give us these basic products they promise in Cuban currency?  

Ever since 2011, there has been talk about the need for Cuba to stop being a net importer of food and to reduce its high dependence on credits; guaranteeing programs for rice, beans, corn, soy, and other grains; but in reality the price of beans doesn’t stop going up. It isn’t a matter of writing, but of really solving what can be corrected with our own means, or, in other words, “emancipating ourselves with our own efforts.” If the food crisis hasn’t been resolved in another ten years, and even further from this, gets worse, how are we going to comply with a Guideline that talks about a “balanced diet” or the loudly proclaimed “food sovereignty”.  

Given all of the above, I still wonder what defense has a person who criticizes what is really important, even if they are accused with being a foreign agent of change. What real opportunities does a group of people with expertise in economics have to transform reality when they aren’t being listened to, while errors persist by those we’re supposed to trust, who make lines longer and prices shoot up?

What space do we have to criticize the philosophy of dollar (MLC) stores without being accused of counter-revolutionary, while Katapulk fills its foreign coffers selling any food product?  

Wasn’t the idea to gradually phase out the dual currency system and move towards food sovereignty? Where are the real brakes on national progress? Let’s go back to my initial question in the face of so many conceptual ups and downs: Who defends us?  

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