Yoani Sanchez on Revolutionary Cuba at the Start of 2021

Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – There is nowhere to get lost, says Yoani Sanchez, the director of the daily 14ymedio, published online from Havana. In her opinion article, she compares the situation of the Cuban government during the crisis of the 1990s and the current one. With the country’s economic failure in full view, Sanchez comments: “Without results, all it has left to show is its teeth and that further complicates any prognosis.”

The following is Yoani Sanchez’s complete opinion article:

Cuba 2021: Goodbye to the Revolutionary Mask

By Yoani Sanchez (14ymedio)

Cuba is going through a very difficult time. This problem of this December lies not only in the economic crisis expressed in an 11% fall in the gross domestic product, nor is it entirely due to the confinement and pain imposed by the pandemic. The year 2020 says goodbye in dark hues for the Island, particularly in the uncertainty, the inability of its 11 million inhabitants to make plans for their near and medium term future.

In the face of this description, some will respond that there have been worse moments in our recent history. However, in the so-called Special Period of the 1990s — when the cutting off of the Soviet subsidy was followed by long blackouts, cuts in transport and food shortages — there were reserves of change that gave hope to the reformists and nurtured citizens’ dreams. In the midst of the collapse, there was a feeling that some political decisions taken in high places could unblock the productive forces and bring material relief to the people. There were even those who fantasized about a popular revolt that would finally bury, once and for all, the authoritarian model.

Although the only insurrection that occurred was that of thousands of desperate Cubans who tried to escape from the island during the day of the popular uprising known as the Maleconazo, those who bet on the long-awaited economic easing were not wrong. When the situation reached rock bottom, some of these transformations were a bitter pill that the ruling party had to accept: the dollarization of trade, the permission for agricultural markets to exist outside the ration system, the authorization to exercise private work, and the opening to foreign investment. For the first time in a long time, onions were once again seen on the market stands, private taxis filled the streets, and in restaurants run by the self-employed, known as paladares, some lost recipes from the national cuisine were recovered.

Now, unlike then, the capacity of Castroism to transform itself without breaking completely is very limited, almost nil. The system reaches 62 years of existence fossilized in its political core, lacking ideological magnetism to attract new followers and having wasted its wealth of reforms in half-done modifications, lukewarm transformations and steps that once looked forward but had to be turned back. In the time that separates both crises, the one caused by the collapse of the socialist camp in Eastern Europe and the current one, many lost the patience to invest, prosper and chart their dreams in Cuba. A quarter of a century lost for true change.

Today, up against the ropes, the authorities have proposed a package of measures to try to re-float the country in 2021, but so far the announced decisions are oriented more to the loss of subsidies and the cutting of budgets than to the deployment of formulas that promote entrepreneurship, trim nationalization and remove partisan politics from central decision-making. Because to do any of those things would seriously endanger the continuity of Castroism, although not doing them is also anticipating the date for its funeral.

Reactionary and immobile, fearful of news and distrustful of everything that has not come out of the laboratories of the Communist Party, all that remains to the current Cuban model is to repress. For the coming year it will finally set aside its mask of revolution and social justice to show itself as it is: a twentieth century dictatorship that geopolitics, chance and fear have allowed to get this far. Without results, all it has left to show is its teeth, and that further complicates any prognosis.

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This text was originally published in Deutsche Welle for Latin America.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.


2 thoughts on “Yoani Sanchez on Revolutionary Cuba at the Start of 2021

  • “Cuba is going through a very difficult time”. Difficult time? That is certainly putting it mildly and certainly an extreme understatement considering the economic hardships Cuban citizens have had to endure at the hands of incompetent, incapable, communist elites living in a dream world totally detached from pre-2021 reality and beyond.

    Yoani is absolutely correct in her somber analysis particularly when she writes: “. . . the inability of its 11 million inhabitants to make plans for their near and medium term future.” The world has flipped the calendar to 2021 with the COVID pandemic continually rifling through every country, including Cuba, and the world’s population is making plans the best way they can dealing with this persistent pest. Cuban citizens not only cannot make plans like the rest of the world in trying to cope with the pandemic’s ravishes but Cubans also must deal with the continuous, worrisome worry of simply trying to feed their families in this new year.

    Cubans know the economic situation is not going to improve. Yes, it will improve for the ones with foreign currency (American dollars) arriving on a consistent basis into their dollar store accounts. But they are the minority. The majority cannot make plans for the short term future let alone the long term because even their incompetent, inconsistent, mismanaged government has no viable economic plan for future prosperity. Band aid solutions are not what competent visionary leaders espouse for their citizens.

    To appease the hard working Cuban on the street the propaganda machine, when the economic scenario becomes a complete political embarrassment, spews out “good news” from time to time of how the next planned economic initiative will bring prosperity, will alleviate the sufferable suffering, will inspire hope. But what inevitably happens is that economic reality will not allow false hopes to proverbially fly, but allowed to fester causing false hopes to die.

    Yoani summarizes the continual mismanagement extremely succinctly:
    “The system reaches 62 years of existence fossilized in its political core, lacking ideological magnetism to attract new followers and having wasted its wealth of reforms in half-done modifications, lukewarm transformations and steps that once looked forward but had to be turned back.” Well stated.

    Furthermore, Yoani sums up the sad situation by accurately stating that any political, economic, or any initiative that tries to move the Cuban economy forward needs to come from the Communist Party elites otherwise any other sane suggestion is seen to be counter revolutionary, treacherous, and not compliant with revolutionary aspirations. In other words, you – Cubans – are either with us or against us – no sensible middle ground allowed.

    To end, Yoani states: “For the coming year it will finally set aside its mask of revolution and social justice to show itself as it is: a twentieth century dictatorship that geopolitics, chance and fear have allowed to get this far.”

    Perhaps. I don’t know whether the Cuban government will ever set aside its revolutionary mask. Why should it? It’s the religious zeal that commands respect (?) for its forefathers and those brainwashed to follow on command. Everyone knows the country is ruled by a dictatorship and unfortunately for the Cubans, appropriate chance (the American foil), and fear (any dissension warrants jail time and banishment) will continue to be pervasive in 2021, again, unfortunately.

  • Excellent analysis of the situation in Cuba. The excruciatingly slow but inevitable death of Castro-style socialism will be on full display in the upcoming year. The lack of outside capital because of fewer tourism dollars will reveal the failed internal economy more than ever. There are no more slogans to animate the Cuban people to endure greater hardship. The Castro dictatorship will be forced to simply demand that Cubans “suck it up” and deepen their suffering. The only question that remains? How much longer before Cubans rise up against tyranny?

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