Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Critical Times for Cuba

Critical Times for Cuba / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos
Posted on December 22, 2015

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 21 December 2015 – The year 2015 is
drawing to a close and Cuba is living in critical times. There are five
main factors that contribute to the Cuban situation: the breach of the
fundamental agreements of the 6th Communist Party Congress; the aging
and political exhaustion of the "historic leadership"; the spasm in
Cuba-United States relations; the reversal of the leftist wave in Latin
America – in particular the parliamentary defeat of the Maduro
government in Venezuela; and growing popular discontent with the
centralized economic and political model, evident in the exodus of
Cubans from the country and in the growth and improved organization of
the opposition.

The situation is leading to an economic and social crisis and,
predictably, to a political crisis, that obliges all Cuban actors –
especially the government – to think in terms of the general interests
of the people and to put aside those of specific groups.

1. Clearly, had the principal agreements of the 2011 6th Congress of the
Communist Party of Cuba been implemented with respect to
self-employment, cooperatives, business autonomy, and the opening to
foreign investment, the situation today would, at least, be one of
prosperity. Instead, the staunch support for the Statist model continues
to depress farm output and cause retail prices to rise, and the awful
dual currency system continues.

Although slight changes have improved the situation of minority groups
and strengthened the development of an emerging middle class, economic
and social conditions for the dispossessed majority continue to worsen.
The impoverishment of state employees – who are the majority – has also
worsened, aggravated by problems in transport, food and housing, which
are everyone's greatest concerns.

2. Raul Castro has said he will retire from the government in early
2018. His legitimacy, like that of Fidel Castro and the other "historic"
leaders who have ruled this country for more than half a century, comes
from his participation in the assault on the Moncada Barracks, his
presence on the yacht Granma that brought the revolutionaries from
Mexico, and his presence in the Sierra Maestra during the Revolution,
not from being elected by a direct and secret vote of the people. Among
this group, who may arise enjoy their legitimacy, and so would have to
pass the test of direct and democratic election to achieve that
legitimacy before the people.

This situation requires that, in Raul Castro's remaining time in power,
a process of democratic negotiation is undertaken in Cuban society that
enables a broad inclusive national debate, a new constitution and a new
multi-party Electoral Law that allows his successor to run as a
candidate in democratic elections.

These are also the two years left to the "historics" to finish
dismantling the calamity of the Statist model imposed in the name of
socialism, and to develop a free market economy that includes free
cooperatives of every kind and size and self-employment without
restrictions, and, in addition, where the state enterprises that remain
are indispensible they must have a high level of autonomy and for the
most part be co-managed with their workers. Alongside them, private
businesses of all sizes should be developed, including with Cuban
capital from outside the country and with foreign capital.

Should Cuba not advance in this process of democratization and the
expansion of the economic system to one that supports new entrants of
all kinds, the nation's future could be very uncertain and bleak.

This is also the time remaining to Fidel Castro's brother to resolve the
fundamental problems with the United States, to ensure that relations
with the neighboring country benefit Cuba without jeopardizing its

3. The spasm in relations between Cuba and the United States stem from
the Cuban government's demands for a total lifting of the
blockade-embargo, the elimination of the Cuban Adjustment Act and the
return of the Guantanamo Naval Base. Also contributing are the
emigration crisis and the presence of 8,000 Cubans stranded in Central
America, as well as the upcoming election year in the United States,
which will make it more difficult for the Obama administration to move
forward in normalizing relations. All this suggests a somewhat grim
picture, although the president of the United States and some US
lawmakers are pushing Congress to address the issue of Cuba.

The underlying problem is that the United States Congress has indicated
that it will condition any progress on the issue of democratic changes
in Cuba, "concessions to imperialism" that the "revolutionary"
government is not willing to concede.

Nobody understands what concessions to imperialism could devolve
political and economic sovereignty to the Cuban people, who fought a
revolution that triumphed in 1959 to restore institutionalized democracy
and the 1940 Constitution violated by Batista; objectives that have
always been postponed by this "revolutionary" government. It is not a
concession to imperialism; it is a debt to the people.

There are indications that this impasse might be being supported by
figures within the Cuban government itself opposed to the necessary
changes, those who say they would prefer to see the island sink into the
sea rather than compromise on these positions. This sinking does not
enjoy majority support among Cubans.

4. The reversal of the leftist wave in Latin America is creating
conditions for greater pressures on the Cuban government to advance
toward democratic changes. The great parliamentary defeat of the United
Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) will probably lead to a drastic
reduction in Venezuelan oil flowing to Cuba, and in part to the exchange
of doctors for oil, which will significantly affect the Cuban economy
and Cuban society in general. This will force Raul Castro's government
to pay for the oil it consumes, but now from other nations, with payment
conditions that will not be as beneficial as those contracted with
President Maduro.

It should also serve to make the government embark on the path of the
economic reforms approved by the 6th Communist Party Congress, to date
only narrowly applied, and open spaces for democratic participation,
where all sectors – including the opposition and those who think
differently – can engage publically without repression.

5. The disaster sustained by the economy due to lack of government
willingness to advance the economic reforms approved by its own
Communist Party, the lack of democratic advances, the hopelessness
because there are no tangible improvements in the changing relations
with the United States for those at the bottom, and the loss of
Venezuelan aid have increased popular discontent, the exodus of Cubans
to other countries, and the size and organization of the opposition.

Accustomed to ruling for more than half a century with the opposition
crushed by repression, the government doesn't know how to deal with a
growing peaceful alternative that, banned and lacking outlets, manifests
itself in dissimilar ways, both in the heart of the Communist Party and
in official institutions, as well as in the streets.

This entire set of circumstances puts Raul Castro's government up
against a very clear dilemma for 2016. Either advance in the fulfillment
of the agreements of the 6th Party Congress and start a process of
internal democratization that facilitates a greater relaxation of the
cords of the blockade-embargo, or watch the Cuban economy and Cuban
society become involved in a serious period of turbulence with
unpredictable consequences.

Source: Critical Times for Cuba / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos | Translating
Cuba -

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