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January 2016
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Leap Year, Creepy Year

Leap Year, Creepy Year / Miriam Celaya
Posted on January 18, 2016

Miriam Celeya, Cubanet, Havana 15 January 2016 – The year 2016 has begun
under a bad omen. If it weren’t enough with the general gloominess after
one year of uneasy peace between the governments of Cuba and the US
without any perceived improvement in living conditions, the food crisis
has become more acute, and shortages are increasing. Agricultural
products are increasingly scarce, of poor quality and high prices, while
merchandise at foreign currency stores is very scarce. Many
self-employed (cart pushers) have disappeared from the cityscape, while
the cooperative stores are showing shortages signaling worse times ahead.

The high expectations arising out of the 17 December 2014 announcement
of a reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States are
shipwrecked and long gone. The stubborn reality has once again proved to
everyone that Cuba’s ills are endemic: they rest only in the evil
combination of an obsolete and failed sociopolitical and economic system
and the persistence of a politically inept dynastic clique that seized
the country 57 years ago, whose beginning and essential end are centered
in clinging to power at any cost.

In other words, the national disappointment is based on placing the
prospects of happiness in a miracle that would come from “outside” to
save us from the native demon we have in Cuba: Castro-ism, cradle and
reservoir for disaster. Hence, in the face of disappointment
(delusion?), thousands of Cubans choose to seek abroad the happiness
that is denied here.

However, by coincidence, the natural decline of the Castro experiment,
which is already exhausted, will have its biggest survival test this
leap year. Because, while 2016 threatens to be difficult for ordinary
people — that conglomerate of the majority which some are in the
unfortunate habit of referring to as “Cubans on foot” — will not be a
honeycomb for the olive-green gerontocracy and its brown-nosers.

It is true that the Government-State-Party, embodied in the
General-President, continues to hold power at his own free will, but in
recent times the circumstances have not turned out to be as favorable as
were expected. Despite the many awards and being hosted by governments
and international organizations and against the grain of legitimation –
useless to date – of the Cuban dictatorship in forums, including those
of a financial nature, throughout the democratic world, envisioned
foreign investment has not yet materialized, investment which would
provide the necessary capital to start to repair the internal economic

The “new era in relations between Cuba and the international financial
community,” according to the French Department of Finance, has yet to
bear fruit for the elite of the Palace of the Revolution, while the
Foreign Investment Act continues to lack the legal guarantees required
by potential investors. Widespread corruption, rooted in the national
reality, also advises caution when negotiating. Obviously, the slow pace
of “reforms” of State socialism may be commendable in the hypocrisy of
the forums, but it is incompatible with the urgencies of capital.

On the other hand, important changes have taken place in the regional
political physiognomy, undermining alliances on which the plans of the
Castro regime’s eternity rest. “21st Century Socialism” is shaking, and,
just like the ‘real socialism’ of Eastern Europe, it tends to “come
undone.” While the fallen scepter of populism Kirchner-style in
Argentina, Venezuela’s Chávez-style regime also just suffered a
tremendous setback, when the opposition won the majority seats in the
recent legislative elections amid a national crisis ranging from the
greatest food shortages, corruption and citizen insecurity in recent
history, to drug charges that point to the President himself and his
closest acolytes.

In this vein, Venezuela’s support for the Castro regime through daily
oil shipments – already in a phase of decline since 2014 – is hanging by
a thread. Raul Castro’s promise of a reform “without haste, but without
pause,” has not ameliorated the fear of blackouts that have begun to
spread across Cuba, and the increasing uncertainty adds pressure to the
valve, which will guarantee the ongoing exodus, mainly to the US.

Add to this scenario is the political crisis generated by the corruption
scandal in Brazil, involving the president and his party. The region’s
left has fallen into the cone of a tornado and is lagging far behind
those glorious days when a jubilant Chávez hurled threats and
“anti-imperialist” insults at every podium, and lavishly gave away
Venezuela’s national wealth for the benefit of Latin American
autocracies and other opportunistic parasites.

In closing, repressive signs in Cuba’s interior have been emphasized.
This is an indication of the regime’s growing insecurity, as well as its
preoccupation with maintaining control over an increasingly poorer,
unhappier, more irreverent and less fearful population.

By natural logic, in this leap year we will witness the last congress of
the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) to be led by the so-called historical
generation. It is unlikely that a 90-year old Raúl Castro or his
spectral, 95-year old brother would be able to direct the 8th Congress
in 2021, nor does it seem possible that the shadow of what was once the
Cuban nation will be able to survive five more years of Castro-ism.

The 7th Congress of the PCC to be held in April will undoubtedly be the
most important domestic political event in Cuba. Like it or not, this
improbable Party that lacks a political program, with ranks of less than
one million members, and which not a single fairly lucid Cuban believes
in “is the highest leading force of society and the state,” as Article 5
of the Constitution endorses, so that, at least the intention of the
government on the political future of the country for the next five
years should be made clear. It would be unwise to propose 300 more
ineffective guidelines.

Another important event of the year will certainly be the proposed new
Electoral Law. Given the fear that anything that resembles democratic
elections awakens in the gerontocracy, we will have to see what freak of
jurisprudence they will propose to “make perfect” (even more in their
favor) the electoral system, and how they propose to make it look “more
democratic.” In particular, the recent Venezuelan experience will make
them cling more strongly to that famous maxim of our former President:
“Elections? What for?”

“Leap Year, creepy year,” our grandmothers said. And indeed, so far, all
signs point to more poverty, more emigration, more corruption, more
repression… and also to the fastest growing dissatisfaction and internal
dissent. However, nothing will prevent a change for the better in Cuba,
with the help of those who have nothing to lose but their own fear. The
picture being sketched is thorny, and it suggests that 2016 will be a
decisive year for Cubans.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Leap Year, Creepy Year / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba –

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