Raul Castro on a Tight Rope / Miriam Celaya
Posted on February 6, 2014
Raul Cast has the choice to either deepen the openings or go backwards.
In both instances, he will have to face the consequences.
HAVANA, Cuba, January. According to Castro II, the General-President,
the seven years he has spent as head of government have been, according
to his own express desire, barely a “period of experimentation”, in
which he has been forced to relax existing laws in an agonizing effort
to “update” — not reform — a model that had demonstrated obsolescence
since its inception.
At first glance, it would seem that we are in a continuation phase of
the experiment that started in January 1959, and the period between July
2006 and December 2013 is just “more of the same” as some like to
repeat. But there are certain details that dramatically change the
setting, inconsistent with the intentions of the official plan and the
results of the experimentation.
The fact is that the “Raúl” phase of the experiment surrendered the
foundation over which Fidel’s revolution was erected (except, of course,
the power of historical and social control mechanisms, such as the
monopoly of the press, information and repression), placing us in front
of a curious process of self-destruction of the system from which,
subsequently, the same class would emerge at the helm, but in a
different political system. We would be thus helping an “experiment”
called sweeping the last remains of the paradigm of Marxist breath by
the same class which imposed it, to reinstate a market economy,
paradoxically intended to perpetuate the power of the supposed enemies
The Cuban revolution, characterized by a series of improvisations and
campaigns, did not found an ideology that would sustain it in theory, or
an economy that would support it in practice. At present, it appears to
be moving towards an incoherent scenario in which the ruling elite,
capitalist in practice, though with a socialist discourse, would cohabit
with the governed, subsisting under “socialist” conditions in practice,
but with capital as their utmost aspiration.
Between the two extremes, a “buffer zone” would be made up of a managing
breed, dispensable if necessary, though privileged in power with broad
economic advantages and committed to it. It would consist of managers of
emerging sectors with access to monetary and material benefits – such as
travel abroad — and by certain executives who have been creating a
gastronomic empire under the guise of “partnerships” since the 1990’s,
for example some restaurants in Chinatown and other areas, and by the
new, rich proprietors who have been emerging from the elite cultural sector.
In retrospect, one can say that, for better or worse, Cuban reality has
changed more in the last seven years than in the previous 20 by a
combination of factors that, nevertheless, do not depend on just the
will of the government, and stem from the urgent need for changes due to
the structural crisis of the system with a bankrupt economy. These
changes somewhat break the monolithic immobility characteristic of
totalitarian regimes and create elements that weaken it from within.
This applies, for example, to the official program of layoffs in many
industrial State centers, unable to maintain subsidies and the inflation
of the plans, in addition to the authorization and extension of the
private labor market — euphemistically called “non-State forms of
employment”, and more generally” self-employment” — having undergone
successive changes from its original constraints, which officials have
been forced to adjust, between advances and regressions, due to pressure
from the new emerging and independent sector, which consider themselves
as workers who contribute to the economy and to the State despite the
controversial and abusive taxation system and the numerous restrictions
that hinder their prosperity and development.
Despite the slow pace of the program’s “update” and the many reforms
that have been implemented, such as the distribution of land in usufruct
— a form of leasing — to private farmers and successive concessions; the
sale of homes, cars and other properties among individuals; the
independent contracting of cellular phone service; the authorization to
sell computers; the creation of an internet connection service, though
riddled with surveillance checks and excessively expensive; the adoption
of non-agricultural cooperatives and, most recently, the emigration
reform and car sales by the State at absurdly high prices, among others.
The General-President has not managed to stop the deterioration or to
advance the economy. He also has not been able to prevent the nascent
exodus towards the provinces, featuring groups of self-employed who have
begun to claim their rights spontaneously, and to express their
dissatisfaction with the limitations of licenses and the repressive
measures that restrict their activities.
In 2013 and already in the initial weeks of 2014 there have been several
strikes and demonstrations in the interior, like the bus drivers in
Bayamo and Santa Clara in 2013 and the small business owners who have
carried out small strikes and demonstrations in several locations in
Cuba — also in Santa Clara and Holguín — as well as in some
municipalities in the capital, which are just a sample of the power of a
private sector driven by interests that go beyond the frameworks of
political and ideological commitments that can focus on rights that are
So 2014 could turn out to be an interesting and perhaps decisive
scenario from many angles. After coming full circle, we should begin to
notice the fruits of the government’s socio-economic strategy and enjoy
some benefits, but it appears that the opposite will happen.
The government has the choice to deepen the openings and implement real
reforms, or to go backward. In both cases, it will have to face the
consequences. The “liberated” sectors that have begun to stir by
themselves within a very limited space face the challenge to push and
expand the gap. Meanwhile, the shortages within society are growing,
there is increased repression, and discontent is growing. Maybe the
General-President should consider taking a breather to meditate on the
idea that speeding it up a bit would be healthy for all.
Cubanet, February 4th, 2014 | Miriam Celaya |
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: Raul Castro on a Tight Rope / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba –