Populism and Demagoguery in Baracoa
EUGENIO YÁÑEZ | La Habana | 19 de Octubre de 2016 - 10:34 CEST.
Cuba may be the only country in the world where its inhabitants, after
losing their homes, furniture, electrical equipment, clothing, medicine,
food and water, due to the destruction wrought by a giant hurricane, are
"happy" because their leader pays them a visit. Not hopeful, comforted,
or excited, but "happy."
This, at least according to Granma, the propaganda instrument of the
Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). After Raúl Castro visited the city of
Baracoa, catastrophically destroyed by Hurricane Matthew, the "Decision
of the Revolutionary Government" (whatever that means) was made public
to finance, from the state budget, 50% of the costs of costs of
materials to rebuild or repair homes destroyed totally or partially by
But at the prices the Government sells building materials, even when
reduced by 50% they will still make unconscionable sums, and for
products of dubious quality. Does the regime finance Cubans, or have
Cubans been financing the "Revolutionary Government" for more than half
Those who cannot afford to pay for materials in cash (the case of many
Baracoa residents) will be able to receive low-interest loans to
purchase them, but the problem persists. With the meager wages paid by
the "revolutionary Government," how long will the victims need in order
to repay the loans, even with no interest?
Those who cannot aspire to obtain loans will need to apply for full or
partial rebates or subsidies, to be drawn from the State budget. This
does not even guarantee that they will be granted, but at least they
will be able to harbor this hope for a time.
Supposedly what has been designed for the towns damaged in the province
of Guantánamo is based on the experiences of Santiago de Cuba in the
wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. What Castro's press does not reveal,
but what everyone knows, is that there are still unrepaired homes in
that city, their inhabitants reduced to living in shelters, and that
corruption, diversions of funds, theft and blackmail abound after four
years of demagoguery and State paternalism, without resolving the
victims' most pressing problems.
There those who think that in situations of disaster conditions are ripe
for spontaneous popular uprisings. But Castroism knows that just the
opposite is the case: those who have lost everything do not think about
rebelling, but surviving; and they know that the Government is their
only option to get initial help, even it is scant and poor. They are not
going to risk losing even more by backing any vague, diffuse or
So, the populism rages on. Raúl Castro appeared to tour Baracoa in a
"marathon of love and trust in the Revolution," as Granma stated in its
corny headline. State Security had taken the necessary contingency
measures to keep anything from happening, and his bodyguards surrounded
him, and not very discreetly.
Then came the inevitable touches. While groups (supporters?) shouted
praise for the Castro brothers and the Revolution, someone exclaimed to
the general: "We are happy to have you here with us." Again, it is not
that they were hopeful, comforted, or excited, but happy. A peculiar
concept of happiness, this.
But Raúl Castro pointed to things that were daunting, entailing vital
work for the city: the almost 300-meter bridge over the Toa River, which
links Baracoa with Holguin, collapsed. In the same place he said: "We
will have to cure all these wounds." But, so that nobody got their hopes
up, he stressed: "It's going to take a while." Something like doing it
slowly but surely. A resident told him that "the Revolution will never
forsake us," to which Raúl Castro replied: "never." But, in reality,
they are already forsaken.
He did differ in one way from Fidel Castro: when one of the people
shouted "thank you for your visit," Raúl Castro said, "No, thank you,
for your fortitude." Although his answer was only out of courtesy and
protocol, the elder Castro never would have said it, as he considers
himself above everyone and everything, and believes that we should all
thank him for having deigned to "descend to the level of the people."
Interestingly, Raúl Castro is demonstrating something, slowly. He was
always considered an intellectually mediocre and uncharismatic yes man
dwelling in the shadow of his older brother. But he has done no worse
than the Commander – even though that would be hard. Nor has he
destroyed the country with the viciousness and persistence with which
Castro I did. And he has achieved things that, despite his reputation as
a brilliant statesman and intelligent person, his brother never did.
This is not to congratulate Raúl Castro for his work, or his complicity
with his older brother. But we must recognize that he is demonstrating a
capacity to exploit populism and demagoguery almost as well as his
brother, and sometimes even better.
Source: Populism and Demagoguery in Baracoa | Diario de Cuba -