The Myth of Transition / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on August 27, 2013
I often ask myself why we do not take a moment and dispassionately take
note of the indications and evidence that, starting at the top, the
Cuban government is trying to design the post-Castro future for us.
Not long ago General Raúl Castro organized meetings throughout the
country at the neighborhood level and at places of work. People were
asked to discuss their problems at these events without fear.
The sense of catharsis these provided was important. People discussed
their problems, though without seeing them resolved, and the government
bought itself some time. As a result commissions were set up and plans
were laid down.
Raúl Castro is a military man who retains a Cold War mentality. Before
adopting a strategy, he creates commissions and studies every situation
in detail before moving forward. Every demonstrable problem has three
separate commissions studying it.
All this compartmentalization means deserters, critics, dissidents and
the new public faces on political scene can, therefore, act only as
reporters. They cannot speak of governmental plans or the future without
venturing into the dangerous territory of speculation and error.
Even Miguel Díaz-Canel — first vice-president of Cuba and the person
who, according to the current constitution, succeeds the president in
the event of the latter's absence, illness or death — criticized the
restraints on the press during an address to the recent Ninth Congress
of the Cuban Union of Journalists, but avoided making any commitments to
Personally, I consider Miguel to be an honest man, but he is an official
puppet who is not part of the inner power circle. Therefore, he is not
privy to what will happen tomorrow, or even in the next fifteen minutes.
The results of the recent elections and the inclusion of new faces in
the Cuban government do not represent a significant change. It is a
feeble attempt to promote the false image of a transition, a simulation
which aims simply to appear pluralistic. Cuban elections are controlled
voting procedures designed to obtain public approval of hand-picked
candidates and to place civilian marionettes in government posts.
Ah, but might these people's thinking boomerang, turning them into
tomorrow's faces of change? I think so, but I do not believe for a
moment that during the initial phases of the long-awaited post-Castro
era these people are capable of moving the foundations of government,
changing the character of the judicial system or altering the solid
chain of command that currently exists among the power elite and the
I presume that in time the eventual passing of the so-called historic
leaders will allow for the emergence of new group who, once in power,
will be more disposed or will feel obliged to implement truly democratic
The self-employment initiative — notice they never call it
entrepreneurship so as to distance it from capitalism — was a masterful
stroke. It showed a convenient — I would add apparent — path to a market
economy. It also created hope in a wide segment of the population which
looked towards micro-businesses as a way up. With any luck it would
allow these people to ascend from the micro to the small, and from the
medium to the macro.
But let us not kid ourselves. This is all a myth. The Cuban
micro-business economy is one of tiny shops and subsistence. Instead of
a stimulus policy, entrepreneurship is hampered. Profits made by the
self-employed do not lead to prosperity because they cannot be
reinvested; they can only be used to plug holes.
But every rule has its exceptions. There are private businesses with
parallel, presumably illegal entrances which — along with a dangerous
but necessary moneyed class of entrepreneurs and intellectuals — are
tolerated and used to give society a timely touch of success and prosperity.
It is a well thought-out plan for governing. Pretend conditions are
good, confuse everyone, and continue down the path that increasingly
concentrates rights in the hands of the state rather than promoting a
state of rights.
21 August 2013
Source: "The Myth of Transition / Juan Juan Almeida | Translating Cuba"