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Cuba in Crisis: the Pressure is Building

Cuba in Crisis: the Pressure is Building / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 15 July 2016 — Some claim that “nothing
ever happens in Cuba.” However, the signals we have been receiving of
late indicate otherwise.

The price increases at the produce markets since the last quarter of
2015, accompanied by periodic (and frequent) cycles of shortages of food
and other basic items in the TRDs,* accompanied by fierce raids against
the self-employed – and particularly against the well-known pushcart
vendors – the closing down of the only wholesale produce market in
Havana, and the accumulation of problems without solutions, have been
increasing the pressure inside Cuba. The most expeditious solution has
been the exodus stampede, which has already turned created a crisis in
some areas of South and Central America.

As if such a scenario were not enough, during the sessions of the
Seventh Ordinary Period of the current legislature, the National
Assembly has once again begun to thresh the usual litany of failures:
lack of completion of building plans and housing repairs, aqueducts and
sewage system networks, insufficient food production, the new debacle of
the last sugar harvest, the insurmountable difficulties in public
transportation, the drought problems, the climate’s ill turns, the
chronic lack of liquidity as an essential feature of the national
economy, and even the damages we are encountering because of low world
prices for nickel…. and oil (!?!?).

Reports presented by ministers and other Cuban senior leaders in the ten
working committees, as well as “debates” that have been taking place
among deputies, are proof of the healthy and uninterrupted march towards
a national debacle, under the experienced guidance Castro II.

It is a well-known fact that we are living in the midst of a disaster.
What’s new is that now the dark prophecy of the impending advent of
(more) difficult times is being delivered by the official spokesmen
themselves, not by the ‘counter-revolutionaries’ from here and over there.

The report presented to the Economic Affairs Commission by Economy
Minister Marino Murillo referred to – without much fanfare – saving
measures and adjustments that have been taking place to combat what he
called “a tense liquidity situation.” He noted that the expected revenue
in the economic plan did not materialize for this period, and that it is
unlikely that the well-heralded 2% GDP growth will take place by
year-end 2016.

As usual, such “predictions” are not only made when the national drama
is in full swing, but they are not accompanied by a package of
solutions. Instead, the “measures” of the highest echelons of power to
alleviate the crisis had preceded the omen. For several weeks they have
been cutting working hours, transportation service for workers,
“subsidized gasoline” and other perks, such as lunches or snacks – in
the few centers that belong to “strategic sectors” the state still has –
of the workplaces of the capital.

Air-conditioning service is being reduced at the TRDs, from 2 PM until
closing. They have also started to increase the blackout periods in
different areas of Havana.

The new savings plan includes the elimination, starting the week of July
11th, of night shifts in several orthodontic offices, including at the
Orthodontic School.

Shortages in oil and regular gasoline at the gas stations (Cupet), where
they are sold, is another factor being felt in the transportation
systems, both state-owned and among private carriers. Assignations to
the state fleet have been dramatically limited – including those
intended for the transportation of goods from warehouses to the TRDs,
thus aggravating the shortages – while the private service has been
decreased, suggesting an upcoming transportation price hike.

Almost simultaneously, meetings have been held with the militants of
numerous Cuban Communist Party (PCC) base organizations to alert them to
the need for increased vigilance and support for the institutions
responsible for maintaining order, and also to be ready to counter
manifestations of violence, increased corruption and other criminal
activities characteristic of crisis situations.

The communist base is being warned about the importance of being
vigilant against any outbreak of discontent that could lead to an
anti-government revolt likely to be exploited by the enemies of the
Revolution. Everything indicates that what is worrying the power elite
is not exactly “what’s going on” but what might happen in the short term.

And since – in direct line with the worsening crisis choking the lives
of Cubans – discontent is what continues to grow most in the country
right now, and militants can’t rest in their mission to safeguard the
interests of olive-green caste.

Meanwhile, in the interior of the island frustration increases and the
migratory stampede continues to assume cyclopean dimensions. With the
capital of the masses’ faith drained to the dregs, power will be forced
to multiply its spending to sustain the formidable repressive forces
needed to repress an entire people, a task that will not be as easy as
beating, arresting and imprisoning peaceful dissidents.

In the interior of the island frustration in creases and the migratory
stampede continues to take cyclopean dimensions (photo: AP)
Paradoxically, the government’s stubbornness and political clumsiness
impel the outcome it is seeking to avoid. An insistence on trying to
lead the nation as if it were an army in the full campaign of war,
rather than promoting a broad and deep economic opening that cleanses
the domestic economy, allows the development of the potential of the
private sector, and gives a break the national anoxia, shows the
meanness of a caste that prefers the sacrifice of an entire people
before losing power.

To accentuate the absurd, the leaders of the Palace of the Revolution
have the effrontery to launch this new report of forced austerity at the
same time they are debating strategies and the government’s economic
plans out to the year 2030. No moderately reasonable government would
announce a period of energy cuts and other unpopular measures while
running a public consultation of such importance. Undoubtedly, the
General-President and his claque rely excessively on the powerful social
control they have exercised so far, and the gentleness of a people who
have forgotten how to assert their rights.

However, although no one doubts that Cuba is navigating toward a major
disaster, one cannot rely too heavily on the accuracy of official
reports. Especially if there is no access by citizens and independent
institutions to primary sources or macroeconomic data, which remain the
secret patrimony of the State-Party-Government and its most faithful
servants. This means statistical figures are not reliable even when they
are unfavorable to the country’s leadership.

We can’t forget that just days before the gloomy reports of the National
Assembly, official media reported optimistically the increasing numbers
of foreign visitors who are bringing hard currency in the tourism
industry, and rubbed their hands with glee over the numerous signings of
technology exchange agreements and declarations of intent from foreign

For this reason, and without denying the great influence of the
Venezuelan situation on the Cuban economy – which has a profound impact
on a country as dependent on aid and subsidies as is Cuba – it cannot be
affirmed with a scientific certainty how much of a real urgency there is
in the “complex scenario” of the island’s economy, and the political
blackmail maneuvers by the Castro regime’s highest levels of power,
intended to pressure the United States government, and it congress and
political forces for a final lifting of the embargo, which would allow
the dictatorship quick and direct access to credits, a flood of foreign
investments and a flow of hard currency that would guarantee its
permanence in power.

Thus, to magnify the effect of the virtual collapse of Chavismo in
Venezuela and that country’s economic crisis as the main source of the
current Cuban crisis is to place (once again) the causes of Cuba’s
problems beyond its frontiers, when in reality the key to all our ills
is found in the inefficiency of an elite of cunning bandits who have
hijacked lives and property, looting the nation at will for decades.

Because with or without Venezuela – as before with or without the Soviet
Union, with or without the “Socialist Camp,” with or without foreign
investors – the truth is that the Castros have done more damage to Cuba
than all the epidemics and wars this nation has faced throughout its
history, and will continue to be a hindrance for all Cubans regardless
of who remains in the seat of power.

This summer, then, promises to be very hot and not because of the
greenhouse effect. The compasses of tens of thousands of Cuban continue
pointing to the promising north and the stampede from the island is
expected to once again take the maritime route. If this is the
General-President’s strategy to ease the internal pressure and achieve
his interests in perpetuity, he should know it is a risky game and could
be counterproductive for everyone, especially for those who have more to

At this point, we could rewrite as its inverse that bombastic phrase of
a certain chimeric allegation, which could well serve as an epithet on
the tomb of Castroism: “Absolve them. It doesn’t matter. History will
condemn them.”**

Translator’s notes:

*”TRD” is the acronym for the official name (in Spanish) of these
government stores which does not even attempt to hide their intended
function: Hard Currency Collection Stores.

**Fidel Castro concluded his four-hour speech in his own defense at his
trial for his leadership of the 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks with
the words: “Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Cuba in Crisis: the Pressure is Building / Cubanet, Miriam
Celaya – Translating Cuba –

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