Informacion economica sobre Cuba

The Contradictions of Cuba’s Foreign Minister

November 6, 2013

Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*

HAVANA TIMES — The United Nations has once again gone through the

motions of condemning the blockade/embargo imposed on Cuba by the United

States. Though this gesture is very ineffective, I am happy it was

repeated, for the blockade/embargo has increasingly become a stumbling

block devoid of any evident advantages for anyone.

In addition to being an interventionist measure, the embargo has helped

create an exceptional situation which the Cuban government has known how

to use to its advantage, polarizing the island’s internal political

landscape and manipulating national and international public opinion.

It is the latter I want to focus my analysis on, taking as my point of

departure a number of the rhetorical maneuvers from Cuba’s Foreign

Minister Bruno Rodriguez during his publicized speech before the UN

General Assembly. I particularly wish to focus on the way in which

Rodriguez has relied on euphemisms to give simple economic necessity a

humanistic spin.

Ultimately, this leads his arguments to a kind of political dead end,

evident in his remarks that describe the blockade as an act of

“ignorance”, in a section of his speech which deserves a special place

in the history of Cuba’s political schizophrenia.

Rodriguez says: “The blockade is an act of ignorance that prevents the

free movement of people, the flow of information, the exchange of ideas

and the development of cultural, sport and scientific links between our


What the stiff Cuban foreign minister means with this, in truth, is that

the blockade denies Cuba tourism. Though one can reasonably expect that

tourism will lead to the exchange of information and ideas between

people, this is precisely the part of the whole affair that terrifies

Cuban leaders, for whom the best possible international tourism would be

of the kind that takes place at isolated keys, which are as close to

paradise as they are distant from the reality of common Cubans.

At most, the Cuban leadership would approve of gringos and Cubans

exchanging ideas about the best way to cook fried plantains, the amount

of mint one should use to prepare a mojito or the advantages of oyster

cocktails over Viagra pills, but not much beyond this.

But, since the blockade/embargo is framed as a humanistic issue, the

discourse surrounding it cannot be besmirched with materialistic

considerations. This is why Foreign Minister Rodriguez takes

globalization at its word and speaks of human rights, the exchange of

ideas and the flow of information.

He even bemoans the curtailment of the constitutional rights of US

citizens, who are denied the right to travel to Cuba. No matter how hard

Rodriguez tries to resemble Thomas Paine, however, we all know he is

merely a shopkeeper, and that, behind his spiel hides Cuba’s interest in

selling daiquiris, traditional summer shirts and multi-colored maracas

to gringos.

Rodriguez’ efforts at sounding convincing stand a chance only within a

closed circle of drowsy diplomats. His speech is divested of all

sincerity from the start by the very nature of the speaker, the Cuban

government, by its authoritarian character and the way in which it

manipulates the rights of its quasi-citizens.

His rhetorical euphemisms turn into contradictions as soon as they are

voiced, and these contradictions become sheer hypocrisy, for Bruno is

one creature on the face of this earth who has no right to invoke the

curtailment of rights by others, and this because he represents a State

that denies Cubans the possibility of exercising such rights.

First of all, the Cuban government restricts the rights of its citizens

to travel freely within Cuba. The internal movements of the population

continue to be governed by a medieval decree law.

This government also denies Cuban émigrés the right to freely visit and

travel around the country, a right that would be totally in keeping with

a society that is already clearly transnational and relies on this

condition to a considerable extent.

The recent migratory reform did not establish citizen rights. It only

made travel legislation more permissive, leaving intact the mechanisms

that maintain Cuban émigrés in their condition of exiles who are denied

full rights.

Foreign Minister Rodriguez also represents a State that restricts the

flow of information by denying the immense majority of its population

access to the Internet (to blame this situation on the blockade is a

bare-faced lie) and by maintaining strict control over the printed

publications to which Cubans have access.

Numerous books, some of them written by Cuban authors whose intellectual

merit has earned them international recognition, are kept on

inaccessible shelves at Cuba’s National Library, and I know of cases in

which whole series of works have been turned into pulp because of their

ideological content.

Hundreds of works, containing the very best of intellectual production

from around the world, remain out of the reach of Cubans simply because

these books are published outside of Cuba, where, by contrast, all of

the ideological pamphlets regurgitated by the regime’s followers are

enthusiastically published.

Finally, Rodriguez is a member of a political class that curtails and

represses all exchanges of ideas which take place outside the

government’s restricted premises and the interesting but extremely

short-lived spaces for authorized critique.

An intense production of ideas of the most varied nature is taking place

within Cuba – the island and the diaspora of our transnational society,

that is – and these ideas cannot be circulated or exchanged on the island.

I believe that a highly significant part of the spiritual and

intellectual production of Cubans is kept from society as a result of

the repressive policies of the regime, and that this leads to the

impoverishment of all, both inside and outside Cuba.

To return to my previous comments, before aiming to have US tourists

exchange small talk with a local waitress, I believe it would be far

more productive to have a world-renown expert on social security issues

(such as Carmelo Mesa Lago) converse with Cuban officials and share his

ideas about the future of Cuba’s system.

Or to allow Pedro Campos to address the whole of Cuban society, so that

he may explain his ideas regarding democratic socialism; or to grant

this right to Siro del Castillo, so that he may speak of Christian

Democratic values and their significance for Cuban society; or have a

sociologist as knowledgeable about the intricacies of Latin American

social development as Francisco Leon give a lecture at the university;

or allow Yoani Sanchez to do the same in connection with the use of

social networks and their importance to democracy, and Cuesta Morua on

the many issues which he addresses so positively, among many others. Not

because they are the opposition and critical of the government, but

because they are Cuban intellectuals.

That this should not happen has evidently nothing to do with the

blockade/embargo, but with the existence of the authoritarian and

exclusivist political regime that Bruno Rodriguez represents – a

government that, day after day, and against the best interests of the

nation, conspires, and I quote, “against the free movement of

individuals, the flow of information and the exchange of ideas.”


(*) A Havana Times translation of the original published in Spanish by

Source: “The Contradictions of Cuba’s Foreign Minister – Havana” –

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