You and Everyone Else: a Letter to the Cuban Leadership

Pedro Campos

Two sides of Havana. Foto: Juan Suarez
Two sides of Havana. Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — These remarks are addressed to You: to President Raul Castro, the leadership of his government and Party, and the military officers heading the “reform process.”

The so-called “reform process” that You have set in motion and imposed on the Party and Cuban society, by virtue of the anti-democratic Article 5 of the Constitution (which establishes that the Communist Party is the guiding force of society), a process embellished with a far from impartial, vertical and controlled consultation mechanism, has not only been deaf to and strayed from the interests of the majority but also made clear, at every step, its chief objective: that of strengthening the State monopoly over the country’s political and economic systems which a political and military elite has maintained for over half a century.

Cuba is divided into two camps, You and everyone else, all of us, the people, those who You exploit, repress, humiliate, vilify, slander and make guilty of the disasters You bring about.

You have no plan, no project other than remaining in power through any means and at all costs.

The measures implemented as part of the “reform process”, which, in some measure, benefit the others (we, the people), have been pragmatically designed to garner You greater benefits. When Your interests have been affected in some way by the new measures, You have either imposed restrictions on them or taken immediate steps backwards.

Let us look at some examples that demonstrate this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The creation of cellular phone services, hotels for tourists and Internet access points gave Cuba’s military corporations the opportunity to take in large sums of hard currency (Cuban Convertible Pesos, CUC), as all of these services are offered exclusively in this currency. At the same time, a number of restrictions have been imposed on these services for, from Your point of view, some aspects of these could prove detrimental to Your interests.

Thus, cellular phone services, operated by ETECSA, a monopoly that is already under the control of the military, are not only used to spy on the conversations of users but also to deprive government opponents of the service when it is in Your interest to do so.

What could we say about the Internet? In addition to the many websites kept “under lock and key”, pages that cannot be opened because of “national security” issues, the price of Internet access (prohibitive for the majority) makes it impossible for us, the others, to navigate the web.

Reina and Belascoain Streets in Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez
Reina and Belascoain Streets in Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

Certain tourist facilities remain off bounds for Cubans, as is the case of some keys that were once, or continue to be, the private getaway areas of high government officials.

Though the new migratory laws have opened up possibilities for travel abroad, the government has reserved the right to restrict such laws whenever it deems it necessary. Meanwhile, the regulations that apply to Cubans residing abroad remain unchanged and the high costs of migratory procedures have not been changed.

You, however, have taken in large sums from the issuing of passports and through other official, migratory procedures stemming from this legislation, without ever informing the public of the exact amount collected or its destination.

The cooperatives law doesn’t authorize anything beyond the experiments currently being conducted with State companies that, in one way or another, benefit You, be it as a means of pulling out of unprofitable companies or in order to “rent out” those that do earn some bigwig or government official considerable dividends, as is the case of the restaurant La Divina Pastora.

The assignment of State land to individual farmers has helped You dismantle many Basic Cooperative Production Companies (UBPC), entities which were never true cooperatives or anything of the sort, and to denigrate the concept of cooperativism all at once.

All the while, You handed out the best lands, fitted with irrigation systems and access to roads, to those who are loyal to and sympathize with the government, capitalist farmers who demanded the expansion of their estates and, according to information published by Cuba’s official press itself, made it possible for some “regional land administrators” (appointed by You) to profit from the land parcels distributed at Your whim.

It was said self-employment would be encouraged so that the hundreds of thousands of people who were fired from State companies could have jobs, but they have never authorized free, individual employment in all sectors, nor have they permitted all technicians and professionals to set up their own businesses. It was only recently that they authorized those who graduated in the 60s to do so.

That is to say, they are now allowing 70-year-old professionals to set up their own business, when it’s already beyond their capabilities. What’s more, the few authorized activities are burdened by high direct and indirect taxes.

In this connection, recently, after they allowed the sellers of clothing to bring into the country large volumes of products from Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, the United States and Europe and to manufacture and adapt garments, they issued a decree – another edict – which prohibits the sale of clothing which hasn’t been produced by the sellers themselves. This is something completely unheard-of, a move aimed at eliminating, in one fell swoop, the establishments that successfully compete with the military monopolies, that is, private clothing stores.

They authorized teachers to offer students private refresher courses. The newspaper Granma, however, criticizes educators who do this in their free time, calling it “an ideological problem.”

To take in millions for the authoritarian State controlled by the military, Cuba has exported badly-paid doctors and health professionals, undermining one of the few achievements attained by the people over the last fifty years, caring little that this has created a huge deficit of medical professionals and specialists at hospitals and polyclinics and has transformed the attention and treatment received by Cuban patients into a veritable ordeal.

More recently, they shut down private 3D home theaters and videogame locales, one of the few sources of entertainment in many neighborhoods around Havana, and this because the State must decide how people are to have fun.

Heck, You do something and then You change your mind, doing things as you see fit or please. You know only the pure pragmatism of absolute power.

Cleaning the Bay of Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez
Cleaning the Bay of Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

The most recent of government “announcements”, regarding Cuba’s imminent monetary unification, strikes one as a note drafted by an expert in disinformation and the spreading of panic: instead of giving citizens confidence and assurance, it has unleashed speculation and despair among many Cubans, who are wondering about its true repercussions for family economies, particularly those who have some money put away in the bank in one of the two Cuban currencies.

It is no happy coincidence that they should have announced this “monetary unification” when they are also informing us of how they intend to bolster foreign investment in connection with the Mariel commercial mega-project. As everyone knows, the monetary mess the Cuban State has brought about is a serious obstacle in the way of foreign investment.

In short, You do everything thinking only about You, your profits, your institutions, your bureaucratic apparatus. You care little about the effects it may have on others, the workers, the people.

Now, in the spirit of the Platt Doctrine – how ironic! – you hope to have international capital, particularly US capital, which you have attacked so much and called the root of all evil, bail you out.

Let their tourists and millionaires come over in their yachts and cruises to invest in Cuba, to buy country estates and play golf with the sons of the new bureau-bourgeoisie. Now, you hope to secure fabulous profits for the State through the vast market that will be opened up by the Mariel mega port project, entirely under Your control and for Your benefit and the befit of the imperialist partners you’re after.

And what are you offering to the rest of us? Sweat shops, exploitation, prohibitions, poverty, unemployment, high taxes, edicts instead of democratic laws and a new labor code that will allow “employers” – a euphemism for capitalist exploiters – to do with their workers as they please. Thus, you offer a whole world of possibilities to investors so that they can freely squeeze as much as they can out of workers.

Instead of encouraging free labor associations, you promote and facilitate unrestricted wage exploitation – some communists You are!

You have become a caste of rulers who have betrayed the interests of the people, the democratic ideals for which the people united, to overthrow Batista’s dictatorship, and the socialist hopes awakened in Cuba’s workers in the 1960s.

As a result of your anti-socialist policies, an unbridgeable abyss has opened up between You and the people. You accept nothing that You do not believe will benefit You. You don’t realize You have become a new Right that develops and implements anti-popular policies of the worst capitalist ilk.

History will not absolve You. Those of you who still have an inkling of sympathy for the people in your hearts, who still remember Camilo Cienfuegos, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the literacy campaign and the many, many other popular battles we wholeheartedly fought for the revolution, which belongs to everyone, not just a handful of people, still have an opportunity to do the right thing and oppose the neo-liberal, pro-capitalist, right-wing and annexationist course of the “reform” process, and to make your own the people’s longing for peace, democracy, freedom and amity which have always been at the heart of the interests of the Cuban people.
Pedro Campos: [email protected]