17 December: First Anniversary of a Sterile Marriage / Miriam Celaya
Posted on December 29, 2015
Miriam Celaya, Havana, 17 December 2015 – At the end of the first year
of the restoration of relations between the governments of the United
States and Cuba, the expectations that the historical event awakened in
Cuba remain unfulfilled. With much pain and no glory, Cubans have
continued their struggle with a precarious and hopeless existence, that,
far from improving, has witnessed the permanent economic crisis
deteriorate further, with increases in the cost of living and
consolidation of chronic shortages.
At the same time, the general deterioration of the healthcare and
education systems continues – the last stronghold of the official
rhetoric – and a new and unstoppable process of emigration has been
spawned and become a stampede, amid fears that negotiations between the
two governments will eventually lead to the demise of the Cuban
With the diplomatic bases settled, the respective embassies in
Washington and Havana reopened, and the agendas of a negotiating process
that continues running in secret established, the Cuban authorities have
set a policy to thwart, to the point of invalidation, the effects of the
measures dictated by the US president in favor of opening up Cuba to the
benefit of private, not governmental initiatives. The increase of
visitors from the neighboring nation and the broad flexibility that
renders ineffectual many of the limitations imposed by the embargo have
not significantly benefited the Cuban people, although they contribute
to foreign exchange earnings for the Cuban government and foreign
businesses established in Cuba, especially those related to tourism.
Despite all this, revenues are insufficient even for the ruling clique,
burdened by huge foreign debt, lack of access to credit from the
International Monetary Fund, the agonizing dependence on external
support – an issue which, paradoxically, is used as an element for
discrediting and delegitimizing internal dissent – the lack of reaction
by foreign capital to the "attractive" new Investment Law, and the
urgent need to buy time to ensure their perpetuation of power.
Finally, in the shadow of Uncle Sam, the revolution cycle has closed
with an end which, though long-awaited, is no less dramatic. Behold, the
agonizing "Marxist-anti-imperialist" gang is working the miracle of
recycling itself, metamorphosing from communist to bourgeois precisely
thanks to the imperial capital.
Judging from the evidence, and in the absence of authoritative and
verifiable information, the almost dizzying avalanche of unilateral
proposals from the White House that took place during the course of the
year have not gotten any proportional response from the Palace of the
Revolution. The Cuban President-General has not only turned out to be
incapable of matching in intensity and magnitude Washington's positive
steps towards an approach that would not be for the sole advantage of
the ruling elite, but for the direct benefit of Cuban society, but has,
instead, taken on the same pace ("no rush") of the so-called
"normalization," the same rhythm as the untimely Guidelines of the last
Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) that were never fulfilled.
From 17 December 2014, though not as a result of that event, the Cuban
crisis has grown more acute. With the economy in a tailspin, a large
part of the workforce in flight or with aspirations to escape, the aging
population, the depressed birth rate, the rampant corruption, the rising
inflation and countless other evils to solve, any other government would
have taken this moment of relaxation and approach as an opportunity to
open a path to prosperity and welfare for its people. Not so the Castro
In response, ordinary Cubans are more politically disbelievers, more
indifferent and more pro-American than ever before.
Opponents and dissidents: a growing sector
Contrary to the most widespread criterion, and despite being divided and
fragmented into multiple projects, the independent civil society, in
particular opposition groups and dissidents, has been gaining in
organization and growth. Unquestionable evidence of this is the
increased repression against them.
The increasing intensity of the repressive forces does not indicate – as
some might suggest, using simplistic logic – a "strengthening of the
dictatorship" from the of the process of talks with the US government,
but, on the contrary, a sign of weakness that indicates both fear of the
impact of US influence in Cuban society and the inability to contain the
growth of civic forces, which compels them to apply violence to possibly
avoid, or at least slow down, its spread and social contagion. A
counterproductive strategy that has achieved just the opposite effect:
increasing the dissidence faction and popular discontent.
After the breakthrough generated by the different positions assumed
before the process started on 17 December, a period of intense
opposition activism has ensued in which all tendencies have gained
visibility and spaces. Partnerships have begun to take shape between
organizations of the most varied viewpoints, from a common consensus:
the urgency to strengthen civic struggle to achieve democracy in Cuba.
In this vein, the general agreement is that all forms of peaceful
struggle are valid, since they put pressure on the cracks in the system
and contribute to its weakening.
In all fairness, we must recognize that the efforts of all opposition
groups – whatever their orientation and proposals – not only face the
challenge of repressive and violent action of the regime in power, but
the almost total indifference of the international community and, what
is worse, of insufficient solidarity and recognition by many democratic
governments of the world.
Apparently, Western political and business leaders expect from the Cuban
opposition the cyclopean task of building a strong coalition or becoming
a political alternative to the absolute power of the Castro regime,
almost unaided, before recognizing the legitimate right of
representation, notwithstanding the colossal difference in resources and
opportunities among the dissidents. Compared to capitalist interests,
the democratic dreams of Cubans mean nothing.
2016, a pivotal year
Thus, 17 December is the paper wedding anniversary of the marriage of
convenience between the governments of the United States and Cuba, but
the union has, so far, been fruitless, at least for the Cubans, who we
were never invited to the wedding. The conspiratorial style of the
olive-green caste ruled the celebration. However, it would be unfair to
attribute Cuba's current ills to an alleged White House political error.
In any case, with this approach to the regime, Barack Obama is doing
what is expected of a ruler: looking after the interests of his country
and its constituents. Good for Obama, bad for Castro.
Truthfully, the Cuban general crisis existed long before the current US
president took office, so the frustrations that the more deluded are
experiencing are more a response to excessive and unjustified
expectations and an overestimation of the importance of Cuba, barely an
insignificant island with delusions of grandeur, governed by an outdated
and inefficient system, and lost in the huge regional geopolitical map.
It has been an intense year, but, in retrospect, ordinary Cubans and the
opposition at least should have assimilated a valuable experience: no
one will come to save us from the wreck.
A year ago, the unthinkable happened just when the most bitter enemies
of this hemisphere decided to sit at the negotiating table to settle
their differences. This incredible saga teaches us something important:
2016 could be a pivotal year if those who us who aspire to turn Cuba
into a country of law can demonstrate that we are capable of doing what
now seems an impossible task: creating a civic coalition in the face of
a dictatorship that assumes itself to be eternal. It doesn't seem that
we have any other options left.
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: 17 December: First Anniversary of a Sterile Marriage / Miriam
Celaya | Translating Cuba -