“The impasse is the dynamics of deterioration,” my friend said, part philosophic part pessimistic after listening to Raul Castro’s speech in the National Assembly yesterday. The rope of our prognostications had not stretched tight waiting for a possible announcement of changes, but we had some expectation around certain long-promised measures. However, on pronouncing the official words to close out 2009, the second Party secretary seemed to be hanging more on the brake than the rudder, more cautious than enterprising, far more conservative than daring.
Our parliamentarians, for their part, again lost the chance to ask uncomfortable questions, to oppose a ballot, or engage in heated discussions. They may have let the last opportunity go by to impel an opening from above and to break with this image of the mute chorus they have shown for more than three decades. The debates that took place in the Palace of Conventions, which were shown on television, seemed to happen in a distant country, a country with enough time to defer—over and over again—the needed transformations. Not even the euphemism of “updating the economic system” included the most important demands of the weighty popular agenda.
In this fourth regular session, they didn’t even clarify the name of the new year*, the growth in GDP, though reduced, still seems inflated to us, and there is a threat of future cuts that nobody will confirm. Despite certain pragmatic turns of phrase delivered in the final speech, volunteerism and orders handed down from above continue to shape the principal strategy for governing the country. So, the parliamentarians continually lose importance because the master plan is cooked up in one office alone, and endorsed with barely a pair of signatures. I would not be surprised if in February or March they implement a package of cuts and adjustments, which will not be passed through the hands of even these—highly complacent—deputies.
In the middle of next year the National Assembly will meet again to applaud—their usual dose of complicity and silence.
The name of the year: The Cuban regime names each year. For example 1961 was “The Year of Education.”