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A Stone in the Shoe

September 25, 2011 1 comment

I don’t intend to persuade anyone that Cuba is some kind of hell. Nor to change the mind of those who imagine that it’s a paradise. But it still bothers me to read in the national press that Washington is taking measures to tighten the embargo.

I’m not a politician, but every morning is filled with problems, with transport, with food, with medicines, etc. Everything is a problem and I don’t think that it is because of the US embargo, although it’s the perfect excuse.

After 50 years, the US measure became a matter of policy, and it is a political measure, not an economic one. In the currency collecting shops there are US products and Cuba also imports food from that country. Nevertheless, things are still bad because of the blockade, at least that is what we read daily in the national press.

On the other hand, the man in the street doesn’t notice the embargo despite the propaganda on the hoardings that reminds him that, in one week without a blockade, it would be possible to buy 11 railway engines. All this is immaterial when you are looking for something to eat, or trying to avoid political persecution, for a pound of coffee and two pounds of cheese.

There is a single truth; the embargo has not brought down the communist regime and its removal wouldn’t end all the social problems. The sad thing is that both governments treat it as war of attrition, and others have to pay the price.

U.S. contractor Alan Gross,expressed his desire to improve communication between Cuba and other countries, a gesture that is both valued and appreciated. But that is not enough when facing a sentence in Cuba. This is an outcome of the political dispute between Cuba and the United States.

If you want to know what I think, I am in favor of the elimination of the embargo or at least the more detrimental parts of it. I consider it to be an ineffective measure, though I recognize that the people whose properties were confiscated by the government deserve fair compensation.

It’s time to put forward ideas and to negotiate, if we are truly interested in the future of Cuba. This is the moment, and the opportunity. The popularity of the charismatic leader is very low, the socialist economy is bankrupt and they is no way to deal with the needs of society.

It just needs the “threat from outside ” to disappear for Cubans to act for themselves, not conditioned by hunger. Those who believe that a tightening of the blockade will bring us out on the streets beating cooking-pots are wrong. If it didn’t happen before, it certainly won’t now.

It’s true. Possibly, after a hypothetical elimination of the embargo, the government will continue to require travel permits to leave the island, will deport easterners from the capital back to their provinces, and will not allow us to invest in the economy on equal terms with foreigners.

Nor will it stop repressing anyone who opposes its policies. That is, there will no more freedoms. However, the information blockade might disappear, Cubans could have more contact with other countries and, above all, there would be no justification for those leaders who have spent 50 years blaming the blockade for their own failure.

It’s time to think, with our feet on the ground, and especially those who live across the sea, in democracy. It is wrong for them to play politics with our misery. The embargo is a stone in the shoe, for the transition.

Translated by: Jack Gibbard

September 18 2011

The Government Considers Abolishing the Invitation Letter as a Travel Requirement

June 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The streets of the island were full of comments after, around the middle of the month, the government brought out a paper with the debates of the congress, and a leaflet with the ideas that were passed, confirming that Cubans will be able to sell their houses and cars, and in the future to travel as tourists.

In the 60’s the revolutionary government, for political reasons, empowered the Ministry of the Interior to decide which Cubans could enter and leave the island. In 50 years the motives for emigrating have changed, but the controls and the bureaucracy involved haven’t.

At the moment Cubans cannot make international trips as tourists. The Law on Migration only allows people to leave Cuba on official business or to visit friends and family. Those who travel for private reasons have to show a letter of invitation.

“To consider a policy which permits Cubans resident in the country to travel abroad as tourists”, says the final line of decision number 265, passed in the communist congress, and intended to be carried out during the current five year period, which began in January 2011.

“Pack of lies, imagine waiting till 2015 to hear the results of the study, that there will be no entry or exit permits”, said Juan after buying the pamphlet. This man, about 40, wanted to check for himself the rumours that began to circulate the second week of May, when it went on sale.

The document must be applied for and issued in the country of residence of the inviting person and must be legalised through the consulates. It is valid for one year and is issued to a single invited person, for a single journey.

Its removal means the disappearance of one of the most troublesome pieces of bureaucracy which Cubans have to pay for in order to travel, and, as well as the visa of the country they want to visit, they also need to get an entry and exit permit.

The problem then would be that the State would give an entry permit to someone who, under whatever conditions, would be a potential emigrant. Ecuador abolished the visa requirement for Cuba. Since then thousands of Cubans, legally or illegally, are looking to legalise their situation in that country.

Undoubtedly it will still take a lot to abolish the system of permits and discretionary powers which the government has to issue them. In these proposals there is a lack of precision — the word freedom is also missing — and, whatever it says, few Cubans are hopeful of travelling as tourists some day.

Translated by: Jack Gibbard

May 26 2011

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