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    Cuba – From Thaw to Disillusion

    Cuba: From Thaw to Disillusion
    [07-01-2016 23:49:55]
    Carlos Alberto Montaner
    Escritor, periodista y político

    (www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- The Cuban-American thaw is back to a
    freeze. Or at least the temperature has dropped a lot. From the torrid
    beginning one year ago, when Obama and Raúl Castro, virtually hand in
    hand through television, announced the rapprochement, disillusionment
    has set in.
    In a recent interview, the American president warned that he’s not
    interested in visiting Cuba if there are no advances in the road to
    tolerance and if he’s not allowed to meet with the dissidents and those
    who defend freedom of the press.

    What has happened? Several predictable things.

    First, the Cuban dictatorship negotiates nothing. It imposes conditions.
    The Castro brothers allowed conversations with Washington to proceed on
    the basis that its “old government of dead folks and flowers” was the
    victim of several decades of continued aggressions by the United States.

    [Translator’s Note: The quotation comes from Cuban singer Silvio
    Rodríguez’s 1978 song “Ojalá.”]

    Havana hoped that Obama would lift the embargo, lavishly indemnify the
    island, return the Guantánamo naval base, shut down Radio-TV Martí and
    pardon spy Ana Belén Montes, sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment for
    betraying her homeland for the benefit of the Castro regime.

    The Cuban government had nothing to repent of. It was a perfect
    one-party democracy, the best in the world, endowed with an
    extraordinary electoral law, and if the Castro brothers stayed on top
    for 56 years it wasn’t because of fear but because of the benevolent
    will of a nation 98 percent of whose citizens voted gratefully for the
    selected candidates.

    In Cuba there were no political prisoners, only politicians imprisoned
    for delinquency. The dissidents and the democratic opposition had not
    been willfully segregated by the Cuban society. Those were artificial
    fabrications of the U.S. Embassy, totally disconnected from the working
    people.

    In Cuba everyone was reasonably happy. Everybody studied. Everybody was
    cured. Everybody worked. The economy grew, despite some stumbles. It was
    a marvelous society, modest and united, characterized by the spirit of
    sacrifice with which it confronted the onslaughts of imperialism, and
    rejective of the consumption of capitalist trash.

    In turn, the White House had a very different opinion. Obama thought
    that little Cuba, until then a victim of the Cold War, wanted to change
    its model of government gradually and he was willing to help. He hadn’t
    the slightest idea that Fidel and Raúl Castro (in that order) saw his
    gesture of extending a hand and burying the hatchet as an acknowledgment
    of defeat.

    That is why Obama was puzzled by virulent, demanding tone with which
    Raúl Castro claimed indemnification for the damages supposedly provoked
    by the embargo and the acts of undeclared war committed by the CIA.

    Raúl began by asking $120 billion and soon reached the fabulous figure
    of $300 billion, ten times the amount of the Alliance for Progress,
    launched in the 1960s for all of Latin America.

    There were also unexpected consequences. Obama had extended to Raúl an
    olive branch not to consolidate tyranny but to facilitate a transition
    to democracy, as he was trying to do in Myanmar (the former Burma) with
    another tribe of corrupt military men.

    When Obama said in Panama that the United States had renounced to
    inducing a “regime change” in the island, he didn’t mean that he was
    rejecting an evolution toward elections, freedoms and pluralism in Cuba
    but that he hoped to encourage the Cuban government to take that step
    voluntarily. He didn’t want to defenestrate Raúl Castro but place him in
    a position where he would leap voluntarily.

    But there was neither a suicide nor a promise of amendment. The CIA and
    the State Department notified the White House that, instead of choosing
    the path of a tranquil transition, the Cuban government had recrudesced
    the persecution of its foes within the island. Every passing day there
    were more detainees, more acts of repudiation, more beatings, more
    repression.

    The “engagement” devised to open up the regime had served to shut it
    even more tightly, as if Raúl Castro had reached the paranoid conclusion
    that the hand extended by Obama concealed a dagger, from which he should
    defend himself by harshening the activities of the not-so-secret police.

    And if the political opening had failed at least for the moment, all
    symptoms indicated that the economic opening had also foundered, at
    least from the viewpoint of the Cuban society.

    After a first moment of euphoria, the Cubans had returned to their
    traditional pessimism. The situation was bad but would be worse in the
    future.

    Among the thousands of exiles who left Cuba for Ecuador, many of them
    marooned in Costa Rica, there is an abundance of self-employed
    entrepreneurs. They started some small business so they could leave and
    pay the coyotes to guide them out of Ecuador to Mexico and thence to the
    United States.

    Some 40,000 of them traversed seven countries and crossed into U.S. soil
    in 2015. Millions more await the opportunity to leave Cuba. Before 1959,
    the Cuban dream was to prosper inside the island, as four generations of
    Cubans did during the 57 years that that restless and exuberant republic
    lasted.

    In turn, the Cuban dream after 57 years of the communist nightmare is to
    escape from that mini-hell aboard just about anything: a raft, a visa, a
    mature woman looking for love, a libidinous gentleman seeking an
    adventure, a venerable old man looking to adopt a young mendicant.

    Whatever.

    Who earns money in today’s Cuba? Very few people, and all of them
    engaged in the tourism industry, given that they collect abroad and in
    hard currency. A society that has several different exchange rates for
    foreign currency, where the average salary is 24 U.S. dollars a month,
    simply has no way to develop gainful activities.

    Serious investors, especially if they answer to stockholders and trade
    in the Stock Exchange, come to the island, realize that the world has
    100 other markets that are safer and more hospitable, drink a mojito,
    swim in Varadero, and wave farewell. There is a reason why Moody’s rates
    Cuban obligations as highly risky. They are. That system can’t be fixed.
    It has to be replaced.

    **Previously published in El Nuevo Herald on December 15, 2015 with the
    title Cuba, del deshielo a la desilusión.

    *Carlos Alberto Montaner is a writer and journalist. Dozens of
    newspapers in Latin America, Spain and the United States publish his
    weekly column. He is the author of more than 25 books; several of them
    have been translated into English, Portuguese, Russian and Italian. He
    is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban &
    Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS), University of Miami.

    Source: Cuba: From Thaw to Disillusion – Misceláneas de Cuba –
    www.miscelaneasdecuba.net/web/Article/Index/568eeb933a682e0ad058545c#.Vo_JvBUrLjY

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