Investment in Cuba? What for? / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
ASCE XXIV / 2014 Annual Conference, Miami Hilton Downtown Hotel,
Panel 12. Concerto Ballrom B – Friday, August 1st, 2:45-4:15pm
In Cuba during the 1970s, historian Manuel Moreno Fraginals challenged
poet Jose Lezama Lima with his trendy scientific notions about the laws
of objectivity and the transition to a colonial/pseudo
republic/revolution from the slave mills to the Slavic sugarcane
cutters; the now forgotten Soviet KTP. Exhaling an asthmatic
counterpoint through his cigar, Lezama Lima responded to Moreno
Fraginals without foregoing the Marxist irony of a convenient Catholic:
“Ah… But when will we have a history that is qualitative?”
Are we Cubans lacking the type of analysis that at the margins of
academic exactitude and author-centered erudition would also require
ethicality? Is a qualitative economy that can escape the comparisons of
percents and profits and the tendency to always side with the expounder
at all conceivable? Is a qualitative political system that rises above
the lowbrow politics practiced in our country unthinkable? How about a
qualitative sociology without ideological determinism and infallible
founders? When all is said and done, is the anthropology of a quality
Cuban one that is multidimensional, subjective, and liberated from the
consensus imposed upon on us with the rhythm of a conga drumbeat?
No wonder the Professor did not answer the Master’s question. Today,
when it comes to Raul Castro’s reforms that in an ever-changing and
capricious landscape that hides a clan’s control while a new image of
legitimacy is created, would Moreno Fraginals rely on the laws of
objectivity in a transition from communism to capitalism? And would
Lezama Lima respond to him with an “Ah… And when we will Cuba have a
history of qualitative capitalism?” Poetry asks impossible questions
that history can answer, though it finds it inconvenient to do so.
Today, by either vocation or duty, Cubanologists discuss their theories
about the island. They have placed their bets for quantitative changes
on the seat of power, avoiding any consultation with the will of the
Cuban people. For many of them the Revolution is a victim, not the
victimizer, and as such is granted the right to not disappear. Because
of this, throughout all of American academia, an anti-Castro stance is
practically considered intellectual harassment.
Therefore, Cubans are supposed to have no other alternative than to
collaborate with the government in the construction of controllable
capitalism that is already irreversible while the country’s socialistic
constitution remains “irrevocable.” In this scam of a transition, borne
of short memories where horrors become simply errors, liberty becomes an
encumbrance threatening to make everything end in a debacle. And it is
this astute death threat that forces us to be loyal as a post-socialist
substitute for legality.
“A country is not run like a campsite,” another poet once told to
another general. But those who once dressed in olive-green uniforms and
now as the new generation wear business suits, have turned the country
into a campsite so as not to fully contradict Jose Marti’s words to
Maximo Gomez. Citizens are abundant, but soldiers are saviors: the
disinterest of the former is secondary to the discipline of the latter.
The year 2018 is being called the new 1958. After 60 years of solitary
power, biology finally brings us a calendar without the Castros. But
after waiting for so long, we Cubans can now wait a little more. We have
become accustomed to the family legacy that leaves us the choice between
a parliamentarian sexologist and a colonel –like Putin– from the
Ministry of the Interior. One is in charge of reproduction and the other
of repression; she is in charge of pleasure, he of power; academia and
military; diplomacy and impertinence; masquerade and malice.
The inverted logic behind investing in such a Cuba is that after the
profits, it would precipitate a multi-party political system: vouchers
that will promote voting; underdevelopment erased by cash flowing
through banks; from Che to checks. Like dissidents without God, layman
Lenier Gonzalez might call them “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” because
the nation teeters on collapse between a war of economic action from the
outside and peaceful resistance from the inside.
Perhaps to sidestep such suspicions, foreign investors avoid showing off
the profit gained from a captive and insular market. They seem to invest
with almost-humanitarian intentions, although their “good deed” will be
repaid by having their property seized and not a few of them will end up
deported, imprisoned, or dead from a heart attack during interrogations
performed by State Security. As for Cuban exiles, they are not even
given the right to live in their own country. And the illusion of
investing in the island — out of nostalgia or some kind of labor therapy
— is justified by the notion that money can make a dictatorship dynamic
much more effectively than dynamite. If we cannot live in a democracy,
at least we will be able to live in a dictocracy. One-party companies
and a tinsel opposition. Like a person who draws a North Korean doodle
and ends up with an exquisite Chinese calligram. Or like in those
childhood cartoons where a tyrant is defeated by a golden antelope that
drowns the villain by throwing gold coins at him and when he can no
longer take the weight screams “enough!”
When I hear the word “economy,” I reach for my gun.
First-world paradoxes: The possible Democrat party candidate for the
White House mumbles something to President Obama in the latest of her
hard choices: “Lift the embargo on Cuba because it’s holding back our
broader agenda across Latin America”. And from the Chamber of Commerce,
its president travels to a country that is presided over by a general
that for decades has denigrated chambers of commerce, and tells him:
Yes, you can.
The economy is too important to be left in the hands of economists.
Executives from the goliath Google land in David’s kingdom of ruins and
are received at the University of Computer Sciences, a bunker of digital
censorship, the cradle of Operation Truth, where there is daily smearing
of those Cubans convinced that it is still possible to live a life of
truth. How do you google a government that like the dog in the manger
will not allow us to connect to the internet or allow anyone else to
Within the economy, everything.
The president of a hemispheric organization who since 2009 has been
begging Cuba to rejoin the international community goes to Havana and
does not dare to ask the reason behind Cuba’s snub of the world. He is
accompanied by a Secretary General who gets a haircut there but does not
question why there were dozens of illegal detentions taking place during
Outside the economy, nothing.
Former brigadier generals of the military and intelligence agencies,
ambassadors to NATO, the OAS, and the Interests Section in Havana (in
their heyday categorized by Castro propaganda as torturers, coup
instigators, agents of the anti-Cuban dirty war, and other extremists
etc.). Hawks now clothed in sheep feathers who advocate an ultimatum not
to their archenemy in the continent, but to the President who extended
his open hand and in return received a closed fist, including weapons
smuggling, the kidnapping of an American to trade as a hostage for Cuban
Talibans, agreements with enemies of democracy and the free market, and
the State-run attempts on our Sakharov Prize winners for Freedom of
Thought: Laura Pollan and Oswaldo Paya.
Economy or death; we will sell.
Contrary to the stampede of Cubans mentioned in Wendy Guerra’s novel
Everyone Leaves, everyone is going to Cuba, everyone is investing in the
first opportunity that presents itself. No one wants to miss out on
their slice of the despotic pie that is on the brink of transition.
Investment is critical for the material development of the country, but
investment should not come regardless of the political price. It would
be a shame to fall into an economy that would leave us dependent on
foreigners and no less vulnerable to domestic impunity. Under those
conditions, sovereignty is nothing more than a joke.
Foreign capital has not brought democratization to the island, but
neither has denying investment been a fountain of political liberty.
Although they are opposite concepts, investments are just like the
commercial embargo the United States has against Cuba: they have had no
influence on the blockade imposed by the Castro regime on Cuban
citizens. Oswaldo Paya believed in a human personal redemption that
would transcend the State as well as the market. And that simple but
ethical vision proved to be qualitatively impracticable for a perpetual
seat of power that relies on complicity by the majority of the nation.
Because if a people elect a single leader and a single party, that
single leader and single party have a moral obligation to downplay that
quantitative blindness, not enthrone themselves upon it. Along with the
Anglicism of a “loyal opposition,” Cubans deserve a government faithful
to the people that will step down according to logical legislation, even
if it goes against the popular will of the people.
For now, the private investment initiative in Cuba does nothing to
obtain or guarantee rights to association, property, participation,
expression, or the means of production. Self-employed Cubans exhibit
their implausibility even in Washington D.C., but in the Plaza of the
Revolution, they can only march en masse with their propaganda banners.
For that very reason they are not invited to invest in Cuba and their
self-employment licenses are nothing more than economic privileges. As
soon as they achieve some type of cash liquidity, they will escape
without much noise or fuss, as our population pyramid tends to do since
that is always preferable in a transient nation: post-totalitarianism is
the same as post-trampolinism. That plebiscite with one’s feet is
unstoppable, with investments or sanctions, with lack of solidarity or
interference. After spending so much time exporting guerillas and wars,
we learned to make our living at the expense of someone else, allowing
ourselves to be exploited by taxes rather than enjoying state security
(or suffering it if the words are capitalized).
At the start of the Revolution, throughout the paternalistic lying
during the march to power, Fidel Castro strictly applied his repetitive
slogans: “Elections? What for?”; “Guns? What for?”; Amnesty? What for?”
These were among the other “What for?” slogans that emptied out all the
common sense that previously existed in our nationality. The Revolution
not only installed itself by decree as the source of all rights, it also
made itself the arbiter of reason. Everything else became an
afterthought: money, for example. We should then publicly confront that
same philanthropic octogenarian before senility turns him into ashes and
ask him: “Investment? What for?”
And maybe he will respond with that European fascist plagiarism of
himself in 1953: Invest in Cuba, it does not matter, history will
Translated by Alberto de la Cruz from Babalu blog.
1 August 2014
Source: Investment in Cuba? What for? / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo |
Translating Cuba –