On This Side of the Sea


Do you think that the Cuban government will accept the services of American companies? Do you think it will lift the restrictions it imposes on its nationals, as a demonstration of its willingness to make democratic changes on the island?

The answers contain misgivings and doubts. To Cubans, the recent actions by Obama seem good, but they do not believe that Cuba will accept them. That sentiment is almost unanimous. They want change but cannot imagine the historic leadership talking with its eternal enemy.

On this side of the sea, dead silence on the issue, not a single sign of goodwill. People do not believe that anyone who clings to power, and keeps it by force, will easily release the reins.

They do not expect any action from the government, rather a situation that again strains relations between both countries. Because a reconciliation requires toning down the speeches, not only to the world, but also to the people.

The “reflective comrade”* has already given some clues. And he made it clear that he doesn’t accept the preconditions. On the contrary, he intends to precondition the dialogue. Perhaps to disappoint Obama and make him abandon his ideas.

Raise the standard of living in Cuba? No way! While you go hungry here and poverty continues, the government will have more money. Families divided by a sea of ninety miles are valuable assets and sure sources of capital for the Communists.

In his writings, Fidel Castro makes it clear that he has no intention of removing restrictions on Cubans. It is beyond politics, it is a business that makes millions of dollars a year. The cost of entry and exit permits and surcharges on remittances largely supplement the inefficiency of the socialist enterprise.

It seems that it is not enough that, in 2009 alone, Cuba could receive about one billion dollars. Nor that the Cuban families on this side of the sea would shop in the hard-currency stores, all belonging to the state sector, thus generating profits from high prices. The punishment of the dollar is constant and everywhere.

The dollar is “the currency of the enemy that blockades us,” but also of millions of Cubans who, from their “capitalist and consumerist society,” work and sacrifice to send money to their families on the island.  But the rulers don’t care, and therefore the elimination of the surcharge on remittances is out of the question.

That is why on this side of the sea there are many unbelievers. People who know that leaders need conflict to stay in power. What the people want most, but see as far distant, is the day when the two governments, Cuba and the United States, work together for the good of all Cubans.

Laritza Diversent

Translator’s note: The “Reflective Comrade” refers to Fidel Castro’s regular newspaper column, “Reflections.”

Photo: Toni Rotondas, Flickr.

Translated by: Tomás A.

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