Ten Years of Raulism: From “Reformism” to the Abyss / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 27 February 2017 — As the second month
of 2017 comes to a close, the Cuban panorama continues to be bleak.
Material difficulties and the absence of a realistic economic recovery
program – the ineffectiveness of the chimerical Party Guidelines has
been demonstrated in overcoming the general crisis of the “model” – in
addition to the new regional scenario, the socio-political and economic
crisis in Venezuela, the leftist “allies” defeated at the polls, the
repealing of the “wet foot/dry foot” policy of the United States and,
with it, the closing of Cubans’ most important escape route, Donald J.
Trump’s assumption of the US presidency, and his having already
announced a revision and conditioning of the easing of measures of the
Embargo dictated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, are increasing the
fears for an eventual return to the conditions of the 1990s, after the
collapse of the USSR and the end of the so-called “real socialism.”
At the social level, one of the clearest indicators of the deterioration
and inability to respond on the part of the government is, on the one
hand, the increased repression towards the opposition, and, on the other
hand, the increase of controls on the private sector (the self-employed)
while the economy and services in the state sector continue to collapse.
The most recent example is in the area of passenger transportation, one
of the most active and efficient in the non-state sector; the State’s
response to this efficiency has been to impose a cap on fares, which now
cannot exceed 5 Cuban pesos for each leg of the trip.
Weeks after this measure was implemented, transportation in the Cuban
capital has plunged into a lamentable crisis, demonstrating the great
importance of the private sector for this service. The measure has
resulted in not only a noticeable decrease in the numbers of cabs for
hire – the “almendrones” as they are called, in reference to the
‘almond’ shape of the classic American cars most often used in this
service – in the usual or fixed routes formerly covering the city; but
also in their refusal to pick up passengers in mid-points along their
routes, which could be interpreted as a silent strike of this active
sector in response to the arbitrariness of the government’s measure.
As a corollary, there has been increasing overcrowding in the limited
and inefficient state-operated buses, and the resulting discomfort for
the population, which now must add another difficulty of doubtful
solution to the long list of their pressing daily problems.
Far from presenting any program to improve its monopoly on passenger bus
service, the official response has been the threatening announcement
that it will launch its hordes of inspectors to punish with fines and
appropriations those private sector drivers who intend to conspire to
evade the dispositions of the Power Lords.
For the olive-green lords of the hacienda, the “cabbies” are not even
independent workers who are part of a sector to which the State does not
provide any resources nor assign preferential prices for the purchase of
fuel or spare parts, but simply driving slaves: they and their two-wheel
open carriages are at the service of the master’s orders.
The infinite capacity of the Cuban authorities to try to overcome a
problem by making existing ones worse and more numerous is the paroxysm
of the absurd. For, assuming that in the days to come a true avalanche
of inspectors is unleashed on the hunt for private carriers who don’t
comply with the established prices, the outcome of such a crusade cannot
be less than counterproductive, since, as is well-known, the inspectors
constitute a formidable army of corrupt people who, far from guarding
the funds of the public coffers, the fulfillment of the service of each
activity and the health of the tax system, find the possibility of
lining their own pockets in every punitive action of the State against
every “violation,” through the extortion of the violators.
For its part, the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) which serves as
“support” to the inspectors, is another leech also dedicated to bleeding
the private workers dry, who are, in fact, the only useful and
productive elements in this chain. So, every governmental offensive
against “the private ones” means a juicy harvest for the pairing of
inspectors-PNR, who usually feed like parasites on the most prosperous
entrepreneurs and, invariably, the final harvest results in the
deterioration of services and an increase in their prices – because
whatever the private workers lose in compensation paid as bribes must be
made up for by an increase in prices – and the “normalization” of the
corruption in the whole society, generally accepted as a mechanism of
survival in all spheres of life.
The cycle is closed when, in turn, the passenger, that is, any common
Cuban, is forced to perfect his mechanisms of resistance that will allow
him to equate the increase in the cost of living, and seek additional
income sources, probably illegal, related to contraband, thievery, or
“diversion of resources” (a fancy term for stealing) from state-owned
enterprises and other related offenses. Anything goes when it comes to
And, while the economy shrinks and the shortages increase, the
General-President remains alien and distant, as if he had no
responsibility for what happens under his feet. Cuba drifts in the
storm, with no one in command and no one at the helm, approaching, ever
so close, to the much talked about “precipice,” which Raúl’s reforms
were going to save us from.
Paradoxically, given the weakness of civil society and the lack of
support for it by most of the democratic governments of the world, busy
with their own internal problems, the salvaging of Cubans depends
fundamentally on the political will of the dictatorship in power.
But Castro II is silent. Apparently, he has virtually retired from his
position as head of government well before his announced retirement date
of 2018, and after the final death (as opposed to the many announced but
not real deaths) of his brother and mentor, has only loomed from his
lofty niche from time to time, not to offer his infamous directions to
the misguided “ruled” of the plantation in ruins, but to serve as host
at the welcoming ceremonies for distinguished foreign visitors. At the
end of the day, he is another native of these lands, where almost nobody
cares about the fate of one another… Isn’t it true that, for many
Cubans, the world begins beyond the coral reefs?
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: Ten Years of Raulism: From “Reformism” to the Abyss / Cubanet,
Miriam Celaya – Translating Cuba –