Once again a historic opportunity for change appears at the hands, minds and will of all Cubans and the authorities of the Country. New opportunities open up to change the rate of transformation, making it deeper and stronger. It would be reckless and irresponsible to once again waste time as well as circumstances favorable for an honorable, peaceful, gradual and orderly transfer towards a democratic, prosperous and happy society. The year 2018 marches on towards the intersection of internal and external scenarios which interact and create a complex and critical situation which may lead Cuba into a preventable disaster or into the opening of transformations of its economic and political model. Following are some of these scenarios which are equally dangers, challenges and opportunities:
- The ongoing macroeconomic disaster and its impact upon the daily life of the Cuban people is spreading to a wider spectrum of society, deepening the gap between the large mass of people who live at a precarious subsistence level, and the few who are floating on a rickety debris of corruption and on the privileges reserved for those holding posts at state-directed companies or government offices. The paucity of food, medicines, dwellings, transportation and dignified salaries has reached desperation levels.
- The present centralized and statists economic model definitively doesn’t work after another lost decade of head fakes going by such names as “updating and guidelines,” which now even the authorities recognize have not solved very fundamental problems.
- The private sector has demonstrated the efficiency, ability to create wealth, and entrepreneurial talent of the Cuban people, and of a quick growth potential that has deeply transformed the lives of private businesspeople, their families and even their neighborhoods and municipalities. Viñales, Trinidad, Santa Marta and other localities are irrefutable proof of what works and doesn’t work, of which is the model and the way to go and how rapidly and efficiently the transition could happen in Cuba given its human capital together with business freedom and various forms of property: private, cooperative or mixed state-private. What has been demonstrated in these arenas could already be a reality in large areas of the country serving as a locomotive for the whole Nation.
- The present exclusionary political model, which penalizes discrepancy and which shamelessly obstructs participation by citizens who do not profess the official credo and paralyzes citizen initiatives and propositions, leaves in the hands of a few, and very inefficiently and incompetently at that, local and national decisions, mummifying the exercise of civic virtues in a system incredibly labeled as “one-party democracy” an oxymoronic invention which offends the conscience of the majority of the Cuban people as well as our cultural tradition and historical civics.
- The legal arbitrariness and defenseless position of citizens is an asphyxiating, discriminatory and exclusionary scenario which leaves in the hands of the political police, of “white-collar” reprobates and traffickers of influence and favors, the administration of what passes for justice, which already, without shame or measure, violates the very state-issued ordinary legislation, ignoring the precepts of the very socialist Constitution, while repressing, judging and sentencing on account of supposed and fabricated common crimes those that politically disagree or dare to prosper economically outside the business “apartheid” by which only those “authorized,” “trustworthy,” and “loyal” are allowed to develop and prosper… up until the day in which, as our people tend to say “something” happens as they “jump on” entrepreneurs turning them into “scum” as they are wont to call them. As they violate their own laws, penal proceedings, administrative measures, as well as handling with political overtones “migratory regulations,” sanctions and fines under the pretext of “defending socialism,” what they are really doing is to make the system contradictory, debunking it and creating a climate of insecurity and defenselessness which is very dangerous, and which, in time, will become uncontrollable. The anthropological damage and moral and social deterioration, euphemistically referred to as “the loss of values” is nothing more than the fruits of the lack of ethical education and civics, the decadence and inefficiency of the socio-economic and political model and the entrenchment in power, creating an atmosphere of polarization and institutional verbal and physical violence, unbreathable, and extremely harmful to the psychological, physical, moral and spiritual health of the Nation.
- The inefficiency and stagnation of institutions, due to the bureaucratic DNA of the model, the lack of legitimacy of a system based on political loyalties and not on professional competency, irresponsibility and the lack of feelings of belonging among those public servants which have turned into “chieftains” and “big shots” covered by a shroud of false legitimacy to the political system and crowned by a mummified record which apparently makes them untouchables and immune.
- The systematic violation of Human Rights, especially freedom of expression, assembly, association; of religious and cultural liberty, and of business freedom and travel freedom, are but a few of the walls and internal blockades which are the true and deep cause of our crisis and organic decadence.
- The end of the era of the “historic generation of the revolution” in the main positions of power after April 19th is generating expectations among common people, and uncertainty in the upper echelons of power. All of this is experienced, known and ascertained by anyone who respects oneself, or who lives with the Cuban people, or honestly observes the situation making his or her discernment with a minimum of ethical coherence. None of these realities have anything to do with a truly socialist system, nor with the most basic criteria of social justice, nor with the expressed desire to “update” a “prosperous and sustainable model.” What it provokes is an unstoppable deterioration of society and external dependency of the economy and of politics itself.
In today’s world, no country can live in isolation. It would mean economic, political and cultural suicide. International relations constitute a variable which impacts the lives of citizens, and conditions internal factors. These are some of the realities that impact upon Cuba:
- The crisis in Venezuela has displaced that country as Cuba’s foremost trade partner into third place.
- The reversal in the process of normalization of relations with the United States.
- Political changes in Latin America with electoral losses by governments allied with Cuba such as Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, and Chile.
- The diminution of trade with China which displaced it from second place as trade partner.
- The ascendency of the European Union to become the number one trade and investment partner of Cuba with the positive potential that this implies.
- International expectations upon the announcement of the generational rotation of the presidency of the Council of State and of Government and the avalanche of demands and pressures that will pour, predictably, on the new office holder beginning on April 19, 2018 in order to make for a more agile and substantial advance in structural reforms, both economic and political and regarding respect of all human rights for everyone.
- A new possibility of a greater participation by a civil society which has suffered during this last year the greatest repression in decades, and which has touched more social sectors: freelance sole proprietors, artists, writers, film makers, journalists, opposition leaders, human rights activists, candidates for political change, the religious, and think tanks, among many others.
Proposals and projects
As can be seen, these are but a few of the crossroads which the Cuban people, citizens and government officials will traverse in this year of 2018. Nobody can deny that the synergy among all these scenarios place the Country at a critical, complex and never-seen-before moment, even considering the so-called “Special Period” which was nothing more than the first signals of this persevering acute crisis.
All crises can be responded at least in two ways:
- Entrenchment and paralysis which lead to disaster and to nothingness, that is, to the loss of everything, or
- The opening up to deep, agile and gradual reforms that lead to new models that may include the most noble aspirations, the most prized talents, and the most promising projects that will contribute to allowing Cuba to integrate into the community of normal, democratic and prosperous nations.
A third option could be to apply cosmetic reforms to keep in place these inefficient and exclusionary models. This system has shown itself, during the last ten years, to be unable to lead to any updating, because the snake is biting its own tail. Neither modern-day capitalism nor democratic socialism can be built entrenched upon monopolistic state capitalism, a profile grafted from the worst aspects of both systems. This does not work, as stubborn reality continues to show us. Cuba can rely on, thank God, with an enviable human capital, climate and geographical position. And, where it to change, it could rely on increasing international solidarity, which would be the foundation and generator of a new stage, whose proposals and economic models need to hit a moving target between economic efficiency and social considerations. That is, a balance between the creation of growing and sustainable wealth and the distribution of this wealth; be it material, moral or spiritual, with greater social justice, moving towards holistic and compassionate human development. None of the two utopic illusions that have been tried on either of the two extremes have provided the expected results, nor have they come up with a habitat amenable to talents, values and human and civic virtues. It is up to us to make it happen, by all of us Cubans.
Pinar del Río, January 28, 2018
165th anniversary of the birth of José Martí