We become used to the inflated figures, the secrecy when something goes wrong, and a gross domestic product that never reflects the contents of our pockets. For decades the economic reports have had the ability to hide, through pages filled with numbers and analysis, the seriousness of the problems. Among those qualified in the inexact science of finance, there were some, such as Oscar Espinosa Chepe, who dared to unmask the falsity of certain numbers and who were punished with the “pajama plan” of unemployment and disgrace.

This week my reading of the serious and well-argued analysis published by Father Boris Moreno in New Word, the magazine of the Havana Archdiocese of the Catholic Church, has increased my anxiety about the collapse we are heading into. With the suggestive title, “Whence the Cuban ship?  A look at the economic environment,” the author warns us of a fall – a nosedive – in the material and financial state of the Island. Words that should terrify us, if not for the fact that our ears have become somewhat impervious to bad news about plunges in productivity and shortages

I agree with this holder of a Master’s degree in Economic Science that the first and most important step is “the government’s formal commitment to recognize the ability of all citizens to express their opinions without reprisals of any kind. We should eliminate in our environment the labels that restrict the exchange of ideas and opinions.” After reading this, I imagine my neighbor, a retired accountant, openly expressing his views about the need to allow private enterprise, without this earning him a repudiation rally in front of his door. It takes work to project something like this, I know, but I cherish the idea that some day – without fear that they will be accused of being “mercenaries in the pay of a foreign power” – thousands will express their ideas and propose solutions. What enormous capital Cuba would recover!

While the coffers are not going to be filled solely by proposals and reasoning, our experience tells us that voluntarism and exclusions have only contributed to emptying them.


15 thoughts on “Aimlessly

  1. Hank — That video is spine chilling… what they will be left with if they let this man go on (protected by the Cuban secrete service)… it boggles the mind!

  2. This guy Chavez is an absolute nut case. I just watched a video report on BBC America of him walking around in a public square in Caracas, I think, and proclaiming that a building was to be expropriated, just because he felt like it. On a whim.

    Here is a link to the text of the report. I will try to get a link to the video.

  3. It is so sad to read how the comments of the last posting ” Guardian ” were diverted ( maybe it is a strategy of those who successfully defend the Revolution)on USA and Obama. This webpage is suppose to fight against a clear enemy and not to discuss the positive/negative aspects of Obama’s administration

  4. Hi! Here’s a copy of my message to the Obama administration, in case anyone’s interested:
    Maybe the best way to defeat the Castro dictatorship is to prevent the Chavez dictatorship. Time seems to be running out, now that Ramiro Valdés is in Venezuela, along with tens of thousands of other Cuban agents. The bases in Colombia are essential. Please do what is necessary to defend the people of Venezuela from totalitarianism.

  5. FROM PODER 360.COM: Dreams Unfulfilled
    Another year passes with no signs of loosening in Cuba and more hardship on the horizon
    An expression rich with premonition is making its way around the streets of Cuba these days: “Maybe 2010 is the year we’ve been waiting for!” The oft-repeated phrase can as likely be heard coming from the lips of teenagers as from retirees. It’s as likely whispered by those who oppose the system as by faithful activists of the Communist Party. They all feel that the chords of hope have been stretched too far as the promised changes of Raúl Castro’s government continue to blur. You don’t need to be a gifted fortune teller to know where the frustrations and the material needs of the Cuban population are headed: The numbers of those who emigrate will rise; the crisis will foster the diversion of resources, the black market and stealing from the state; opportunists will adjust their masks; and the dissatisfied will run into the stiffening wall of control and censorship. Faced with such dismal prospects, it’s worth asking from where does the hope arise for that encouraging expression everyone is whispering? It stems precisely from having repeated that same litany so many times that we have come to believe that it’s on the verge of becoming a reality.

    Although the emergence of a string of calamities is likely in the coming months, it’s also possible that such developments may lead to toward an opening-up. Within the irreversible formula that combines material crisis, loss of faith in a process, and the aging of historic leaders, the result is easy to predict, providing sustenance for certain illusions about what is to come. In less complicated terms, the elderly say: “What’s good about this is what’s bad about it,” as they carry on with their empty shopping bag after over an hour waiting in line to buy some eggs. So yes, the situation has reached a point where not even the excessively enthusiastic official newspapers print encouraging headlines.

    To top it off, the Cuban Parliament, which met in mid-December, wasted a magnificent opportunity to debate and approve needed changes the population expects. During various days of deliberation, they were barely able to come up with an official name for 2010, the “52nd Anniversary Year of the Triumph of the Revolution.” But when it came to the country’s most pressing problems, fearful of their magnitude and complexity, they didn’t dare broach a discussion. Nevertheless, the passivity of our members of Parliament didn’t result in our disillusion, accustomed as we are to see them unanimously ratify every issue brought to a vote. In over 30 years since its creation, the National Assembly of People’s Power has yet to reject any bill of law. Given that, there wouldn’t be much expectation as to the results of its innocuous deliberations and its sonorous applause.

    Nevertheless, not even the semi-empty acts of Parliament can hide the desires springing from this island. Especially those related to calls for an end to the dual monetary system, free travel in and out of the country, or for the granting of new licenses for private management. The people are suffocating in the straightjacket of state-imposed control on creativity and on the drive of Cubans. Other yearnings are brought up only within close circles of friends or within the intimacy of the family, and yet are no less pressing; those which allude to the need for greater freedom of expression, for direct presidential elections, or for accepting different parties that would expand the monochromatic spectrum of Cuban politics. For many, none of this would come as a happy ending unless amnesty was first declared for the prisoners of conscience.

    The aspirations my compatriots share about the state of the world are urgent, but will be difficult to fulfill. The end of the economic crisis is the constant prayer of those who rely on remittances from abroad to survive. A less belligerent world—in which it would be harder for our government to justify that we are a besieged citadel where dissent amounts to betrayal—would come as a balm after so many years of tension. The recent climate which has given us a rare December without need for warm clothes has also troubled our predictions and hopes for the next 12 months.

    In the midst of this difficult setting we find ourselves looking for certain signs that will either confirm, or rule out, whether 2010 will be that long awaited for, and so often delayed, year.


    GUARDIAN UK: Inside Cuba’s dance factory
    Cuba has produced some of the world’s most explosive dancers – but its cultural isolation comes at a cost. On the eve of two major UK tours, Judith Mackrell visits Havana

    “Yet behind this apparent success story lies a harsher reality. Cuba has been stranded in a political, economic and cultural limbo for decades, imposing stifling constraints on its artists. Collectively, Cuban dancers may possess astounding potential, yet they face few choicesin their careers.”

    “At the Ballet Nacional, dancers do have certain privileges, including the chance to tour abroad. But it’s evident from talking to them that this exposure to the wider world has sharpened their dissatisfaction, as they realise how far ballet has moved on, and how limited their own repertory is. It’s not just that Alonso’s taste dominates the company, a taste inevitably rooted in an older aesthetic; there is also little money to acquire new work from elsewhere.”

    Exiles from paradise island

    “Scouting for foreign money now takes up most of Iglesias’s energy. “I’ve had to become a full-time whore,” he grins cheerfully. His dancers are on a subsistence wage so low it forces many to leave. Bonachela describes his shock on meeting one ex-DCC dancer performing cabaret in Australia. “He’s incredibly talented. But back in Cuba he had to live with his parents, miles outside ­Havana. Every morning he got up at five o’clock to hitch a ride into work. He was exhausted the whole time.”:

  7. Update on Orlando Zapata Tamayo posted on Uncommon Sense today:

    After prisoners’s 67 days of hunger strike, do you care yet?

    Orlando Zapata Tamayo

    As of today, Feb. 8, Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo has been on a hunger strike for 67 days, demanding his jailers respect his human rights.

    Sixty-seven days later, the dictatorship has not caved and Zapata has not relented.
    So today, he lies in a hospital, dying from the effects of his protest.

    Sixty-seven days.

    The frustration and the worry and the pain and the anger of those on Zapata’s side of his struggle — mainly, his mother, other Cuban dissidents and those of us around the world working to make sure he is not forgotten — is worsened because of the suspicion that if he dies, it won’t make a difference.

    Not one more news story will be written about Cuba’s prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners.

    Not one more person will realize — finally — that murderers are in charge in Havana.
    Not one more person will conclude — finally — that it is time for the dictators to go.

    Zapata will be gone, and the dictatorship will go on.

    With too many people not knowing and/or understanding what just happened.
    During those 67 days, Zapata’s name has been barely mentioned in the English-language mainstream press, and only after some sympathizers were assaulted by the Cuban secret police and other goons. That’s about par for the course for Cuba’s prisoners of conscience, but it’s still horrifying to think that his sacrifice, his desperate struggle against the Castro tyranny can go so ignored for so long.

    I do not support protest by suicide, but I understand it. So I will not condemn Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

    And I will not forget him.

    Because if he dies — a fate that the dictatorship itself does not want, at least while he’s still behind bars — it is vital that it means something.
    After 67 days, Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s sacrifice must mean something.
    Otherwise, the battle for freedom is already lost.
    Payo Libre has the latest details — in English — of Zapata’s condition.

  8. Gringo Marty
    Thank you, your answer is what I was looking for.
    From days gone by I have keept in my mind a thought that carried me thru personal hell …”the evil that men do”
    The transformation of man from fruitful to “survivalist” is the ultimate degradation.
    This regime does not have nor ever had respect for human dignity & underestimates the power of humanity.
    Represion only holds the body, it does not hold the mind or the soul; at worst it only creates resentment, that turns into hate … producing a revange spirit of which the regime IS afraid.
    Retaliation is inevitable even if we know it serves very little purpose.
    raul … your & yours days are numbered.
    Look, listen … from every angle: credibility, represion, fear, hunger, humilliation, starvation, slavery … from each & every one … resentment boiling … hate acting …
    Viva Cuba!

  9. Gringo Marty,

    You’re welcome. Looking forward to hearing more from you and your Cuban friend.

  10. Hank 3# Thank you for the translation. It is much more clear to me as I have to translate the hard way. I am fortunate to have developed such a friendship and am grateful for your assistance.

  11. Gringo Marty #1

    I took the liberty of translating your friend’s comments for the non-Spanish speakers here:

    “With respect to your friend’s doubts, well, there are many people here who no longer believe in our process. There is a lot of disappointment…some speak out but it has cost them dearly. The people no longer believe, but they are afraid to say so, and this fear is understandable. No one believes there will be a change because there are many people who make a living from this and they have learned to live well at other peoples’ expense.”

    “Con la duda de tu amigo, bueno pues hay mucha gente que ya no cree en nuestro proceso. Mucho desencanto…algunos hablan pero les ha costado muy caro. La gente no está de acuerdo pero tiene miedo a expresarlo, y el miedo es comprensible. No se cree que haya un cambio, porque hay mucha gente que vive de esto y ha aprendido a vivir bien a costa de otros…”

  12. REUTERS: Cuba looks to suburban farms to boost food output-Sun Feb 7, 2010 2:56pm GM

    CAMAGUEY, Cuba (Reuters) – “Cuba has launched an ambitious project to ring urban areas with thousands of small farms in a bid to reverse the country’s long agricultural decline and ease its chronic economic woes.

    The five-year plan calls for growing fruits and vegetables and raising livestock in 4-mile-wide (6.5 kilometer) rings around 150 of Cuba’s cities and towns, with the exception of the capital Havana.”

    “But the government will continue to hold a monopoly on most aspects of food production and distribution, including its control of most of the land in the Communist-run nation.
    The pilot program for the project is being conducted in the central city of Camaguey, which the Cuban agriculture ministry has said eventually will have 1,400 small farms covering 52,000 hectares (128,490 acres), just minutes outside the town.

    The farms, mostly in private hands but also including some cooperatives and state-owned enterprises, must grow everything organically, and the ministry expects they will produce 75 percent of the food for the city of 320,000 people, with big state-owned farms providing the rest.”

    “The changes are tweaks to Cuba’s centralized socialism, not a major step away from it, keeping with Raul Castro’s vow to protect the system put in place after his brother took power in the 1959 Cuban revolution.

    He has balked at more sweeping, market-oriented changes that many expected when he took power and without which many economists say Cuba will not significantly increase agricultural output.

    Cubans have seen many past government efforts to transform the country’s agriculture fail, so the farmers at Camaguey said they were taking a wait-and-see attitude on this latest one.”

  13. In a previous post a few days ago from Albert, he asked what was the mood on the street of the Cuban citizens. I asked my Cuban friend this question and I understand and feel the “fear” that she speaks of. The gripping fear that envelops your body…the fear that that will stop most from expressing their opinion. Perhaps collectively opinions that will cause a change that is so needed. Here is a taste of the mood Albert, a mood where “fear” has its rewards. My friends comments… “Con la duda de tu amigo, bueno pues hay mucha gente que ya no cree en nuestro proceso. Mucho desencanto…algunos hablan pero les ha costado muy caro. La gente no está de acuerdo pero tiene miedo a expresarlo, y el miedo es comprensible. No se cree que haya un cambio, porque hay mucha gente que vive de esto y ha aprendido a vivir bien a costa de otros…”
    From my perspective, when things are already so bleak for the Cuban people, their only hope IS to express their opinions and ideas without fear.

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