What Will We Do With the Hope?

An "Esperanza" (Hope) grasshopper. (Silvia Corbelle)

An “Esperanza” (Hope) grasshopper. (Silvia Corbelle)

“Any frustration is the daughter of excessive expectations,” I shared my concern with the U.S. members of Congress who visited Cuba in January. The phrase was designed to stress the flow of illusions that has been let loose in the population since December 17. The announcement of the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States has provoked a resurgence in this country of a feeling lost for decades: hope.

However, the expectations that have been created are so high and so difficult to meet in the short term that many may feel disappointed. There is no way that reality can satisfy such extravagant fantasies of change. The level of deterioration in Cuba needs enormous resources and urgent transformations to be overcome. Time is of the essence, but the Cuban government still has shown no real political will for the new scenario to benefit a wide spectrum of Cuban society.

Before December 17, each person had been focused on aspirations in his or her area of interests and needs. An old locomotive engineer, who saw the dismantling of the railroad of which he spoke with great pride, now says, “You’ll see… we’ll even have a bullet train.” If you ask him the source of such a conviction, he assures you that, “When los yumas – the Americans – start to arrive they will improve transportation and surely bring us investments to improve the lines and buy the latest generation cars.” His dreams take the form of an iron serpent, brilliant and fast, crossing the island.

The expectations that have been created are so high and so difficult to meet in the short term that many might feel disappointed

There are others whose illusions take on the lightness of a kilobyte. A young man, 20, who only know the Internet through a few hours of slow and expensive connections in a Nauta Internet room, says that before the end of the year, “We will have data service on our cellphones.” His certainty is not born from any classified information to which he has access, but because, as he explains, “Obama already said so, the telecommunications companies can negotiate with Cuba, so what’s lacking for me to connect to Facebook and Skype all day long, it’s nothing… nothing.”

The great national obsession, which is food, also has had a space within the imaginative dreams of recent weeks. A housewife, who defines herself as “sick of having to cook the same thing, because there is nothing else,” has projected her illusions on the arrival of goods from the north. “Some lost products will return and the stores won’t have empty freezers like now.” Her perspectives are direct and clear, experiencing the lost taste of beef, the texture of oil and the smell of an onion browning in the pan.

Small private entrepreneurs are not far behind. For the owner of a luxurious private restaurant in the Vedado neighborhood, hope takes the contours of a ferry connecting Havana and Florida. “It will come soon and then we can bring cars, large imports and fresh food for our menu,” he explains with a conviction that provokes a certain anguished denial. He gives the impression that a full lounge, with drinks, bottles of wine and dimmed lights, will cross the water and arrive at the new place he’s building right next to his restaurant.

While expectations grow like a balloon about to burst, others contribute to them with projections from the artistic and creative field. A friend, a private film producer, believes that shortly, “Hollywood could be filming here and Cuban film talent could finally have the resources to do big productions.” For this celluloid artist, “What’s missing is a starting bell to authorize independent productions and allow us to have investors from the United States.”

Among the dissidence and civil society more than a few are preparing to legalize their groups or parties at the least opportunity. Among the hopeful, they are the most cautious because they know that the spigot of political liberties will be the last to open… if it opens at all. They project their own transition from the “illegal, clandestine and heroic phase” to the stage of a “legal, public and intelligent opposition.” Nor should we discount the illusions that have reached Cuban academia, the schools and other official institutions, where people are dusting off their old ideas of jumping into the arena of politics when the single-party system is a bad memory of the past. 

When the bubble of dreams bursts and the excessive expectations bring collective frustration, what will happen?

All these hopes, born on St. Lazarus Day and fed with the visits to Cuba of members of Congress and American negotiators, are now a double-edged sword for the Island’s government. On the one hand, the existence of so many illusions buys time and sets the horizon at the end of a long process of conversations between both administrations, which could go on for years. But, also, the disappointment derived from not meeting or from postponing such dreams will be focused directly on the Plaza of the Revolution.

The anger towards failure will not fall on Obama, but on Raul Castro. He knows this and in recent weeks his spokespeople have emphasized cutting back on the perspectives filling the streets of the entire country. They are trying to anticipate that everything will be more or less the same and that too many expectations can’t be met. But there is nothing harder than countering dreams. The symbolic weight of the beginning of the “thaw” between David and Goliath, cannot be alleviated with calls for calm, nor energetic speeches that point toward a halt in the negotiations.

When the months pass and the “bullet train” doesn’t arrive, the Internet continues to be impossible, the store freezers are as empty as they are today, the customs rules continue to block commercial imports to private hands, the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) maintains its monopoly on film production, and being a member of an opposition party still results in official repression and ideological stigmatization… when the bubble of dreams bursts and the excessive expectations bring collective frustration, what will happen? Maybe from there the energy necessary to push for change will be born.

59 thoughts on “What Will We Do With the Hope?

  1. I think it makes much more sense to organize political events outside rather than in Cuba in order to get support for change in Cuba…

  2. Netflix offers non-political content, and the great demand it can create can in turn help improve both the quality and affordability of internet in Cuba…

  3. THE UNFINISHED AGENDA FOR NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN CUBA AND THE U.S.

    1. No aid for the dissidents.
    2. Return Guantanamo Base to Cuba ( not likely to happen).
    3. Remove Cuba from the list of States that sponsor terrorism- this will probably take place because the embargo has the same restrictions imposed to countries on the Terrorist List.
    4. Three Acts have to change:
    a. Cuban Democracy Act (CDA)
    b. Cuban Liberty and Democracy Solidarity Act (Helms-Burton)
    c. Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act.
    5. Property Claims by U.S. citizens and Cuban expatriates (no way Jose). Possible way around this issue is debt-equity swaps or preferential terms for future investments.
    6. Membership for Cuba in the World Bank or the IMF. U.S. controls 17% of the vote and therefore blocks Cuba from gaining access to money. (Cuba is not looking for membership presently anyway).
    7. U.S. must end its Democracy Programs against Cuba ($20 Million being spend for this purpose now by the U.S.) U.S. already refuses to do away with these programs.
    8. The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program setup by Bush Jr. must end.
    9. U.S. violates international law by funding Radio and T.V. Marti. This must end. Cuba offered to carry PBS and CNN news broadcasts on its domestic television if TV and Radio Martí were halted.
    10. The Cuban Adjustment Act need to stop. U.S. already said no.
    11. Mutual “cease fire” in the trade mark war.
    12. Fugitives…………..on both sides…………..
    13. Democracy and Human Rights. Havana continues to regard questions of democracy and human rights as internal matters and sees foreign demands as infringements on its national sovereignty
    A LOT OF ISSUES TO BE RESOLVED. THIS COULD TAKE (5) OR MORE YEARS TO ACCOMPLISH !!. ENJOY RAUL’S REFORMS AND THE FOREIGN INVESTMENTS FROM EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD IN CUBA. FORGET ABOUT LOANS FROM THE UNITED STATES.

  4. HA HA HA! DEAR Omar Fundora!!! WHAT THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA WANTS IS FOR USAID TO GIVE SOME OF THEIR MONEY TO THE CASTROFASCIST’S NGOS!! HA HA HA! SHOW ME THE MONEY USAID – Raul & Fidel Castro!!

    DEUTSCHE WELLE GERMAN NEWS: Cuba forgets the revolutionary battle cries
    Castro’s government has entered the talks with tough demands. Cuba wants to be taken off the list of terrorist states that includes Iran, Sudan and Syria – and demands closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. Other demands include lifting the trade embargo, recognizing Cuban NGOs monitored by the government and dropping special conditions for Cuban refugees to the US.

    http://www.dw.de/cuba-forgets-the-revolutionary-battle-cries/a-18209910

  5. STOP AID TO DISSIDENTS IN CUBA. ONE OF THE CONDITIONS TO NORMALIZATION OF RELATIONS BETWEEN U.S. AND CUBA

    (Reuters) – Cuba warned the United States on Monday that it wants American diplomats to scale back aid for Cuban dissidents before the two countries can reopen embassies in each other’s capitals.

    The long-time adversaries are negotiating the restoration of diplomatic relations as a first step toward reversing more than five decades of confrontation. Officials for both governments met in Havana in January and a second round of talks is expected to be held in Washington this month.

    But Cuba’s lead negotiator said in an interview broadcast on state television that if the United States wants free movement for its diplomats in Cuba, it must stop using them to support the political opposition.

    “The way those (U.S.) diplomats act should change in terms of stimulating, organizing, training, supplying and financing elements within our country that act against the interests of … the government of the Cuban people,” Josefina Vidal said.

    “The total freedom of movement, which the U.S. side is posing, is tied to a change in the behavior of its diplomatic mission and its officials,” said Vidal, Cuba’s top official for U.S. affairs.

    Washington has long criticized the communist government for repressing opponents of the one-party system. While public support for dissidents is limited, they receive plenty of attention from U.S. and Western diplomats.

    The United States says it supports Cuban activists who exercise their right to freedom of expression.

    The restoration of diplomatic ties could happen before a regional summit in Panama in April, when U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro would meet for the first time since shaking hands at the funeral of Nelson Mandela in December 2013.

    Obama and Castro spoke on the phone the day before their separate but simultaneous announcements on Dec. 17 that they would attempt to end their Cold War-era hostilities.

    The warning by Vidal suggested there were obstacles to restoring diplomatic ties, which has been seen as a relatively easy first step before the two sides try to resolve deeper differences on matters such as human rights and the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba.

    Vidal said the conduct of Cuban diplomats in Washington was “impeccable”, while suggesting the Americans were meddling in internal Cuban affairs.

    “Matters of the internal affairs in Cuba are not negotiable,” Vidal said. “Nor are we going to negotiate matters of an internal nature regarding Cuban sovereignty in exchange for lifting the embargo. Beyond that, everything else is a process of negotiation.”

  6. Obama is determined not only to release the Islamic terrorists but to shut down Guantanamo base. Turning Guantanamo over to the Russian as a naval base by Castro II will be extremely dangerous for the US.

    Raul Castro II has demanded the return of Guantanamo Base. Already Russia is using Cuba bays as a base for its military spy ships. The regime receive economic assistance from Russia, which already has write off 90% of the debt, and if Putin as for a naval base in Guantanamo, Raul Castro II will agree to it.

    According to Pravda article in Jan 30, 3015, “Naval base in Cuba would be Russia’s best response to US hawks”, is already in the working. Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko said: ,b.“I believe that Russia’s best response to US hawks and its allies would be to open a Russian naval base in Cuba.”,/b. If Guantanamo is returned to the Castroit regime it will be the best choice to establish its naval base.
    Link: http://english.pravda.ru/russia/politics/30-01-2015/129659-russia_usa_cuba_hawks-0/

  7. THE CUBAN DIASPORA SENDS OVER $3 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR TO THE ISLAND! THAT’S WHO WILL PAY FOR NETFLIX AND INTERNET AT HOMES IF AND WHEN THE CASTRO CLAN ALLOWS IT AT AN EXORBITANT PRICE OF COURSE! LIKE A GOOD MAFIA!

    QUARTZ BLOG: Why Netflix is entering Cuba even though the internet barely works there – by Adam Epstein
    Netflix just launched in the unlikeliest of locales: Cuba, where less than 5% of the population has internet access and the streaming media company’s subscription cost—$8 a month—is almost half of the average salary. The move was made possible by the recent deal to normalize relations with the United States, which included a promise to ease restrictions on the Cuban internet. Still, even those with access to the internet are mostly on slow dial-up connections. Some hotels have internet cafes with slightly faster connections, but most Cubans can’t afford to use them.

    So why, exactly, is Netflix entering Cuba? Hint: It has nothing to do with the company’s bottom line.
    With this move, Netflix can boast that it’s the first major streaming video service to enter Cuba. Netflix presents itself as a truly global entity that can unite people through its content, and entering Cuba can be spun as a real act of TV diplomacy. It will be interesting to see if companies like HBO, Amazon, and Hulu follow suit.
    One of the top priorities for the US in normalizing its relations with Cuba is to improve Cubans’ access to the internet. And Cuban leaders, at least, have signaled that they’ll allow it. The US now allows exporting communications equipment to Cuba and recently built a $31 million fiber-optic cable connecting Cuba to Florida, with the hopes that it will someday supply the internet to the entire island.

    It may happen slowly—as change usually does in Cuba—but when it does, Netflix will have a head start in a brand new market (though the company already has a fairly large presence in Latin America). Over the next few years, the US hopes to connect more and more Cubans to the internet. And Netflix hopes to connect those people to Frank Underwood and Crazy Eyes.
    http://qz.com/341368/why-netflix-is-entering-cuba-even-though-the-internet-barely-works-there/

  8. CUBAN DISSIDENT JORGE LUIS PEREZ ANTÚNEZ in Los Angeles
    Monday, February 16, 2015 from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM (PST)
    CML Studios – 326 Mira Loma Avenue – Glendale, CA 91204
    SPONSORED BY JUNTA PATRIOTICA CUBANA – REGIONAL CALIFORNIA – APPEARING IN LOS ANGELES CUBAN OPPOSITION LEADER AND FORMER POLITCAL PRISONER JORGE LUIS PEREZ ANTÚNEZ AND HIS WIFE YRIS TAMARA PÉREZ AGUILERA LEADER OF THE ROSA PARKS FEMINIST MOVEMENT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS
    CLICK LINK AT BOTTOM FOR A FREE RESERVATION

    You are invited to an informative conference and community forum where they will share their experiences of life in today’s Cuba, and present their views on President Obama’s recently announced U.S. Cuba policy changes, and the possibility of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
    Anuncia Rueda de Prensa y Foro Informativo en Los Angeles con Jorge Luis Perez Antunez, líder de la oposicion Cubana y ex preso politicoTenemos el placer de invitarlo a una conferencia de prensa y foro de la comunidad donde ellos compartirán sus experiencias de vida en la Cuba de hoy , y presentaran sus puntos de vista sobre los cambios en la política entre los Estados Unidos y Cuba que fueron recientemente anunciados por el presidente Obama. Tambien hablaran de la posibilidad de las relaciones diplomáticas entre los EE.UU. y Cuba .
    Por favor, únase a nosotros.

    Please Join Us Monday, February 16, 2015, at 9:00 a.m.

    CML Studios
    326 Mira Loma Avenue,
    Glendale, CA 91204

    http://www.eventbrite.com/e/jorge-luis-perez-antunez-en-los-angeles-tickets-15686962126

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