Monday, June 27, 2011

Still the Same Thing / Iván García

Still the Same Thing / Iván García
Iván García, Translator: Adrian Rodriguez

The fiery debate and emotions around the reforms of General Raul Castro
were circumscribed to the air-conditioned rooms of the Palace of
Conventions, where between April 16-19 the five commissions of the Sixth
Congress of the Cuban Communist Party were in session.

Cubans warily followed the central report and saw on the TV news the
abstracts of the linguistic, rather than political, debates of the
different commissions debating the future of Cuba. At the end, as a
common practice, the 986 delegates unanimously approved the economic
policies proposed by Castro II to straighten the bow of the already
cracked olive green ship, which with 52 years of sinuous navigation is
at great risk of sinking.

The communist delegates can feel the sublime over-enjoyment of the
spectrum of supposed controversies surrounding the economic plan to be
executed in the next five years.

A lot of delegates, probably, believe without any doubt in the project
designed by the economic tsar Marino Murillo and his troop of
technocrats who, during four days, traded the military uniforms for
elegant white guayabera shirts.

Some of them preferred to remain silent. Maybe they have a lot of doubts
and decided to wait to know the amount of truthfulness involved in the
Castro II proclaimed democracy in the Cuban Communist Party. In Cuba it
is always right to be cautious in political matters.

Not always when the bosses fire the starting gun so that the political
commissioners, official journalists and partisans will talk and
unreservedly criticize the status quo, is it a signal of a change in the
leaders mentality.

On the island naivety is a sin you can't commit. Because the mandarins
who today say that not everybody has to raise their hands at the same
time to support one of the revolution's projects, it is still the same
ones who are written on a black list of those who criticized their
decrees and those who, in their eagerness to be creative, contributed
with their own ideas.

The people on the street are not fools neither. The VI Congress touched
interesting points and the regime anticipated opening a little the iron
fist that monitors citizens' lives.

But everything here is still the same. Maybe worse. The money doesn't
want to land in the wallets. The food is more expensive every day. And
the salaries are still frozen in time, in spite of inflation and the

Out of the party's meeting, the common person got as a result the
imminent authorization allowing him to buy and sell cars and homes. The
homes part of the deal sounds weird: although on the island 90% of the
families own their homes, by official decree they couldn't transfer them
and if they left the country, the government took ownership of their

Amending the front page (it seems), now the common Cuban citizen waits
for more concessions. Like the permission to come and go from the
national territory, the decriminalization of political dissent or, at
last, access to the internet from home.

I doubt that Castro II will fulfill those wishes. He is not Aladdin. He
is only a politician who turns back, knowing that opening the fist too
much may trigger a cataclysm that may end the personal revolution made
by his brother Fidel.

This, socialism, has to be preserved by all means. Making controlled
changes heavily reined in, therefore the beast don't run away out of

Then, at the end of the day, people who for breakfast have coffee
without milk, who are the majority in Cuba, didn't see themselves
represented by the "polemic" delegates, who either keep on silent or
ignore the bunch of rights and civil liberties claimed, not only by the
dissidents, but by the Cuban citizens while waiting in the long lines at
the local grocery stores, or in the interior of the collective gypsy cabs.

The regime's propagandistic marketing wants to sell us the idea that the
Congress happened in a rush of constructive criticism, a kind of
tropical Perestroika and the new popular ideas that will nurture the
homeland's economic future.

I am afraid not. Certain things had changed. There's a glaze of
blackness and more skirts in the Central Committee. There will be fewer
revolutionary marches and empty political speeches. They will issue more
permits to open small variety stores or to sell bread and mayonnaise and
pirated compact discs without so much effort. And that's it.

Photo: Jutta Winkhaus. Playing dominoes at the side of the stairs
leading to La Guarida: the famous "paladar" (a private home restaurant
with a few seats) which is located in and old run down mansion in a poor
Havana neighborhood.

Translated by Adrian Rodriguez

April 27 2011

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