Thursday, January 12, 2012

Conjectures About 2012 / Miriam Celaya

Conjectures About 2012 / Miriam Celaya
Miriam Celaya, Translator: Norma Whiting

A recurring theme among the last days of 2011 and early 2012 by Cubans
and foreign individuals interested in the Cuban reality has been about
the outlook for the year just begun, given the chronic nature of the
national economic crisis, the ongoing measures (reforms) of the
General-President, with his Galapagos kind of pace, the announced
increase in the worldwide recession and the political events that will
have an important influence on the situation in the medium term, namely,
the presidential elections that will take place in the United States
and, fundamentally, those in Venezuela.

The warning signs that constitute the tip of an iceberg floating adrift
erratically became more pronounced in Cuba in 2011: the removal of some
subsidies, the end of the monthly lifetime allowance in hard currency
(50 CUC) to staff having completed health "missions" in other Third
World countries, the shut-down of several work centers and other silent
layoffs, the reduction in ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of
Our Americas) student programs, especially at the Latin American Medical
School, increases in food prices and other staples, worsening economic
living conditions in the poorest sectors of society (the majority), in
contrast against increases in the standard of living of a small sector
of the new middle class, among others. This, coupled with the general
apathy and the growing feeling of helplessness on the part of groups
that will not benefit from Raulista measures, is a picture that points
to the further deterioration of social situations and the potential
increases in crime, among other adverse factors.

One of the strongest contradictions is the slow pace of government
reforms, which, so far, has been unable to stop the deterioration of the
system, compared to the rapid social impoverishment that is directly
reflected in the disappointment, uncertainty, and lack of confidence in
the future, especially a future dependent on the power group that
controls both the macro economy and national politics. There don't seem
to be many flattering indicators, or reasons for hope. If the welfare of
Cuban families hinges on setting up a kiosk or an eatery, on remittances
received from relatives abroad –those who have that luxury- or on
expectations that hang on the generosity of the government, we might as
well start turning out the lights and closing the doors: that is not a

On the other hand, none of the new economic "rights" has been matched by
social and political rights, as is logical under totalitarian regimes.
Cubans have been so thoroughly disenfranchised and have been subjected
to such "paternalistic" controls that even we in the opposition factions
and independent civil society have sometimes unconsciously wished that
freedom of expression, of association and of the press be "allowed", as
if they weren't natural rights inherent to the human condition. What can
we expect from others who have let discouragement win!

Nevertheless, 2011 was also witness to a surge in alternative and civic
groups and to obvious links between the two. A spontaneous process of
modest but visible growth has been taking place within the independent
civil society, which could be consolidating gradually. Undoubtedly,
though it is a small sector, corresponding to the conditions of the
dictatorship, this is the reflection of the will of Cubans with
emancipated mentalities, determined not to ask permission to be free,
convinced that it is vital to transform reality within ourselves. A few
years ago this was unthinkable. Similarly, along with the growth of
civic spaces, we can expect strong resistance from the authorities, and
an eventual increase in repression.

The fate of one and all in this 2012 will be marked, among other
situational factors, by the interests that have already been outlined
more clearly, which, in very general terms, are: the olive green elite
and all of its caste, by virtue of recycling itself in order to maintain
power; the great entrepreneurs, members of that same caste or associated
with it, for maintaining an economic monopoly and increasing their
private capitals; new small businessmen and owners, for increasing their
profits, making use of the meager reforms, and perhaps for fighting for
other reforms; the ever-unfortunates, for surviving another year of
shortages; we, the disobedient dreamers, for increasing activism in
order to promote awareness of democratic changes and for seeking new
ways to foster them.

Some readers may think I'm pessimistic, but that is not the case. My
greatest optimism consists precisely in viewing reality face-to-face and
continuing to wish for changes. Today, the despair of tens of thousands
of Cubans is one of the main allies of the regime. However, we must not
give up. We might find the opportunity and perform a miracle in the
midst of all this dark, murky and imprecise present. Nobody knows how
much time we have left, but it is not the time to throw in the towel.
Those of us who are alive and want to achieve will not allow fatigue and
defeat to win the game.

Translated by Norma Whiting

January 9 2012

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