HAVANA — When we look at today’s Cuba, so different from what we once wanted, we often experience an unwanted perception that the determinative reasons to slow down or stop the pace of the evermore urgent actualizations are the so-called subjective factors or closed minds.
We have learned that an appreciable number of these factors are pending since the accords of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) in April 2011. That was six years ago, a period during which only 21 or 22 percent of the guidelines have been implemented, according to official data published last year.
Following the referendum among the National Assembly deputies and a debate in which not all Cuban citizens participated, the 313 Guidelines approved in 2011 were reduced to 274. These were approved during the Seventh Congress of the PCC, in April 2016, and will be in effect until 2021.
The Main Report submitted by Raúl Castro to that Congress states that 21 percent of the guidelines have been fully implemented and 78 are at various stages of implementation. Apparently, the process of implementation has been tortuous and strewn with contradictions. And all that has occurred without our knowing what is stopping it, what kinds of obstacles we (all of us) are facing, and what dates or timetables for accomplishment have been approved to solve this matter.
In addition, we have a Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) whose container terminal is owned by the Cuban state-run enterprise Almacenes Universales. Sheltered by Law-Decree No. 313, only 19 ZEDM projects have been approved — definitely or temporarily — since the zone was inaugurated in January 2014. That comes down to a glacially slow average of 6 projects per year. Meanwhile, the press gleefully reports that more than 400 companies have expressed interest in investing there.
On the other hand, after the Foreign Investment Law was approved, the government hoped to earn about 2.5 billion dollars a year so as to achieve a growth in excess of 4.5 percent. However, at the end of 2016, our GNP had dropped to minus 0.9 percent.
We have scant access to information because the structure of connection on the island remains very weak for most people. Despite the increase in the number of public WiFi connection points made available by the only telecommunications company in Cuba, and that company’s experiments with Nauta Hogar to access the Internet from private homes, the pace of progress is slow when it comes to daily needs.
We also have numerous gaps on the legislative scene. We still lack a Communications Law, a Citizenship Law, amendments to the Electoral Law, a Constitutional Reform, standards to protect personal data and an update to the legislation that protects consumers.
We continue to operate under a currency duality that affects daily life, opening cracks through which the nation’s budget slips away. And this is only one of the many negative consequences this duality causes.
We therefore believe that boldness must be adopted in terms of realistic measures attuned to the circumstances. It is useless to give administrative answers to economic problems, make political decisions to solve economic requirements or vice versa.
This has been demonstrated in Havana by the crisis of the “boteros” (who continue to charge the traditional fares) and the situation with public transportation (which continues to be inefficient) in most of the provinces.
[Translator’s Note: “Boteros,” or boatmen, are private taxi drivers notorious for cramming multiple passengers into their vehicles.]
To liberate the productive forces is a call repeated several times by President Raúl Castro himself. And while we’re talking about basic necessities, here’s the first item on the list: the price of food — which the authorities have tried to limit on more than one occasion without positive results — remains outside the reach of a majority of the people.
For example, where are the second-level farm cooperatives that were approved during the Sixth Congress? Couldn’t the creation of these cooperatives contribute to the industrialization of food production by bringing together efforts and resources? Why delay this step or refuse to encourage it? The Minister of Food herself acknowledged that some state-run industries are obsolete, some are out of service and others are working at half speed.
Alimentary security, defined as strategic, evidently requires facilitative measures. For example, legislation is needed to allow the cooperatives to act directly, as importers, and assume the commitments inherent in that activity. What’s the risk? Political?
Undoubtedly, there are people who view it that way, but they don’t adequately ponder that the satisfaction of alimentary and other requirements is certainly an urgent political objective, to the degree that it satisfies the needs of the population. It can bring into the process of changes both producers and consumers. Don’t the nation and society require this? Sustaining the Cuban process relies on true support from the people.
Control is an instrument; it does not replace the sincere adherence of the citizenry, which is the soul and muscle of the changes within socialism and for a socialism made solid by its efficiency and creativeness.
Another viewpoint, also political, is that — oddly enough — the agricultural lobby in the United States, which supported Trump, has constantly supported the demand for economic relations with Cuba.
The country needs to provide facilities and can do so. The dilemma perhaps lies in the fact that reservations and doubts beset one step: going from a policy of absolute control to a practice of regulatory measures. Total control has an undeniable presence in the fundamental resources.
To postpone changes today could result in surrendering more than necessary in a not-too-distant future.
There’s also the uncertainty of what will happen when Raúl Castro resigns the presidency of the Councils of State and Ministers in 2018, as he has announced, even though he’ll remain the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).
If what now is seen as probable occurs, we’d be looking at a novel situation: a President of the Republic who is not the PCC’s top leader.
The times are complicated, domestically and internationally; we do not deny that. The country faces a precipice and has a wall at its back. Precisely for that reason, reaching for outdated answers that no longer suit our current sociopolitical environment could be described as erratic.
Who is stopping the implacable tic-toc of time and why? Are such people aware of the deep significance of changing everything that needs to be changed, or shall we see how life takes over? In general, everything that’s alive moves, either of its own will and able to choose its own direction or out of pure inertia. But to be alive, we need to move from socialism and for socialism.