Time for Compensations / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya
Posted on July 29, 2015
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 22 July 2015 — After the media foreplay
stirred by the opening of the Cuban and US embassies in their respective
countries, some outstanding issues on the agenda of negotiations between
the two governments begin to surface as matters that should, in short
order, get the attention of the media and of public opinion.
Statements by senior officials on both sides have made reference to
cardinal issues that marred the Cuba-US relations for half a century,
whose solution – requiring very complex negotiations and agreement —
will depend on the success of the standardization process that has been
occupying headlines and raising expectations since this past December 17th.
One such point refers to compensation claims from both sides. On the US
side, for the expropriations suffered by large American companies in
Cuba, whose assets have remained in the hands of the Cuban government,
and the demands of Cuban citizens who emigrated to the US, who were also
stripped of their properties under laws introduced by the Revolution in
its early years which remained in place for decades. The total amount of
compensation demanded by those affected is estimated at about 7 or 8
The Cuban government, in turn, is demanding that American authorities
"compensate the Cuban people for over $100 billion in human and economic
damages caused by US policies," referring to economic constraints
imposed by the commercial and financial embargo that has weighed on the
Island (the so-called "genocide"), as well as other damages resulting
from "terrorist attacks". The total that the Cuban Government has
established exceeds $100 billion, although it is not known how or who
came up with the process of quantification of the damages.
Up until recently, Cubans "in Cuba" have feared the supposed danger of
the nearly 6,000 compensation claims registered in the US at the Office
of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC, its acronym in English). A quasi-war
cry that emerged from the official discourse, when stating that those
once termed "siquitrillados"* — hat despicable gang of "bourgeois and
stateless softies" who stole the wealth that belonged to the humble
people and then took refuge under the shadow of Cuba's worst enemy —
were trying to recuperate what they had lost under the weight of
revolutionary justice. That is to say, in the event revolutionary power
might cease, thousands of Cuban families would be left homeless when the
former owners took back their real properties and evicted them from
their buildings. At the same time, children would be left without
schools and there would not be enough hospitals, jobs, etc.
And, while that was the message to Cubans on the island in the late
90's, the government, with its exhausted coffers, sent reassuring
signals to foreign investors interested in Cuba as a market, reassuring
them that they would be willing to negotiate "fair" compensation with
the victims of those old expropriations.
But fear, that indispensable tool of every totalitarian power, had
penetrated so deeply into the common people's psyche that, to date, the
specter of eviction, of unemployment and of some other possible losses
worries not just a few of the families who live in properties built
before 1959 or who work at establishments and factories that Fidel
Castro's government seized decades ago. It is expected, therefore, that
the issue of "claims and compensation" of the current negotiating agenda
will awaken a higher expectation among Cubans than the modicum of
(harmless) novelties that have been presented so far in the framework of
political strife currently taking place.
Every Cuban is familiar with those huge posters displaying mysterious
mathematical calculations which, however, nobody understands. Such
language is often seen declaring how many books, notebooks, medicines or
sport equipment have not been acquired for each number of days of the
"blockade" (embargo) against Cuba.
The figures are usually astronomical, but the basic criteria and
indicators are completely unknown. That is, exactly what is the
equivalent of one day of US embargo if measured in notebooks? What are
these notebooks and how are their prices calculated? Something similar
happens with even more subjective issues, such as the amounts the US
owes Cubans who have been victims of violence or terrorism in acts of
sabotage taking place during these years.
However, it is absolutely fair to demand compensation for damages in
either case. For this reason, and because the scenario seems conducive
to reconciliation, Cubans should be getting our calculators ready to
determine exactly what amounts of compensation the "Revolutionary"
government should pay us for all the wars they got us involved in, where
thousands of our fellow countrymen died, how much for the destruction of
the national economic infrastructure, how much for the waste of public
funds based on ideology, how much for the parades, for the poverty, for
the emigration, for shattering our country and the Cuban family, for so
many useless "battles," for the fraud they call Revolution, for the
lives lost in the Florida Straits, for the sinking of the 13 de Marzo
tugboat, for the repression, moral damages, persecution, exclusions,
prohibitions, low wages, inflation, monetary duality, for snatching our
freedom, and for the curtailment of our rights.
Let's test it out, and in the style of those experiments the beloved
General-President loves so much. I propose that we prepare, slowly but
surely, a list of our losses over 56 years of dictatorship, and
calculate their cost. Our list of demands is sure to be endless, but the
sum of the total compensation they owe us is simply beyond price.
*Translator's note" Siquitrilla: wishbone. Those who lost property in
early years of the revolution, or who "ended up with the short end of
the (their own) wishbone."
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: Time for Compensations / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya | Translating