By Isabel Manuela Estrada Portales, Ph.D., M.S.
I am of the school of Zapata. Yeah, Emiliano: I do not want freedom without bread; nor bread without freedom. I want liberty and bread.
The United States and Cuba reopened their embassies and the American left is drooling because they assume there is some paradise we have missed.
|The Ladies in White (las #DamasdeBlanco),
relatives of Cuban political prisoners.
From The Cuban Economy
As things are supposedly changing in Cuba, many of us are upset at the plethora of benefits showered on the Castro’s regime without any substantive concession from it in return.
However, I wonder why we ask the United States and Obama to do our work for us, again.
While the blame for the situation in the island falls squarely on the regime that has strangled it for more than five decades, there is plenty of culpability to go around. I do believe that we, Cubans, particularly those of us living abroad, have significant responsibility. We talk a good game but do nothing and never miss an opportunity to go back and take pictures on the sunny beaches and the trendy cafés. Not to mention those of us who are greasing palms, bloody as they might be, to get a slice of the pie while is hot…and cheap. The only drawbacks are those pesky protesters.
However, why would or should the U.S. keep up a fight that we, Cubans are only too happy to forgo?
Hugo Cancio, the Cuban-American businessman, owner of the online magazine OnCuba
, and a Marielito no less, is milking the convenient situation of Cuba
for all its worth. He admits that most of the money flowing to the island is coming from Miami. “For the [Cuban] government, Cancio was an appealing figure: a Cuban-American capitalist who was also a patriot, and not averse to working within the Party’s limitations—especially if his business got a boost.” As a story in The New Yorker
would have it: “Cubans like Cancio have deduced that expressions of resentment will get them nowhere.”
The left, though, somehow has discovered the wonders of the cruelest capitalism in the new Cuba.
It is disheartening to watch how those who criticize the worst aspects of an individualistic system that devalues the communal efforts and penalizes the poor for being so can’t find enough excitement to show about the transformation of Cuba from a dictatorial socialist country to a dictatorial free market one.
The positive reaction from the left and the business segments of the right to this process of “rapprochement” and Obama’s position have shown us that José Martí was right but not quite about “the brutal and turbulent North which despises us.” It reminds me of Casablanca, when Ugarte says to Rick “You despise me, don’t you?” to which Rick replies: “If I gave you any thought I probably would.”
Americans don’t despise Cubans, particularly the money-less ones; they just don’t give them any thought. They imagine the forbidden fruit, the movie images of hot Havana nights, the sex craze. Those who would fall in line with ideology in the face of evidence every time perhaps really harbor illusions of a place that has stood up to an imperial power. They hang to that mirage for dear life and ignore the stream of evidence to the contrary.
Why are celebrities and billionaires going to Cuba? Are they trying to showcase the medical advancements or trying to show off in the old cars of the Cuba of yore that are, ironically, the harbingers of things to come?
Yes, Americans wonder what the point is of a pointless embargo. I am against the embargo precisely because it is just one more of the U.S. foreign policy hypocrisies: China, fine. Cuba, communist. Obama’s actions are an admission of defeat for a policy that has not brought about the intended change. That, actually, may speak to America’s greatness.
When I’m obstinate, I wonder what the point is of re-establishing diplomatic relationships with a brutal and anti-democratic regime. The point is clear: either a blind faith in the free market’s ability to bring about democratic change or an utter disregard for the fate of most Cubans. I believe both are true of America’s position everywhere.
The government I can deal with. What I can’t tolerate, stomach is more apt, is the position of my fellow travelers on the left side of the boat. If the only way we can have an equitable society is through repression, I don’t want it and I don’t think many would. We all know it is a fallacy.
We raise our voice against the abuse of women in India; the genital mutilation in countries of Africa; the femicide in Honduras, but have nothing to say about women beaten in the streets of Havana for staging peaceful protests.
We fight against mass-incarceration in the U.S. and its genocidal toll on the black population, but keep complicit silence about the deteriorating condition of blacks in Cuba; their increasing separation from the sources of hard currency and their overrepresentation in the poorest neighborhoods and the prisons.
Diplomatic relationships are necessary. The U.S. should not solve this. We, Cubans should. But the U.S. should at least stand up in principle and condemn this regime slightly more sternly.
On the Kojo Nnamdi Show
of July 20, Enrique Pumar, Chair of the department of Sociology of the Catholic University of America said that both governments should make an effort to move things along, because, “it is not helpful
” that, in the middle of the negotiations there were human rights abuses in Cuba. “This is not helpful. In any democracy elected officials are accountable, and when people see that in the news they become disillusioned.”
I would love to know to what democracy and to what elected officials he was referring. Just imagine the outcry if someone said that it is not helpful that ISIS kept killing people; that Iran kept flogging bloggers; or that Saddam Hussein kept jailing and torturing the opposition. Particularly for those at the wrong end of the beatings it is certainly most unhelpful.
Oh, but it is not the same, of course, because Cuba has free healthcare and free post-secondary education.