Friday, April 10, 2009

"What will the party militants think?"

Generacion Y blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote a commentary on the expectation that “an avalanche” of Americans will be traveling to Cuba, and relations may normalize:

The Seven Passing by Thebes

The visit of seven members of the United States Congress to our country has intensified expectations about an avalanche of American tourists. The owners of rooms for rent calculate the potential earnings and the taxi drivers dream of those chewing gum who leave generous tips. At Terminal Two in Jose Marti Airport some have already arrived, confident of the early relaxation of travel restrictions to Cuba. People have nicknamed these early visitors "the brave ones"; I don't know if it's for the risk they've assumed in the face of the laws of their country or because of their audacity in coming to an Island where, according to the official version, they're "the enemy."

The expected "normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States" must occur mainly between the two administrations. At the level of the people, we've been in agreement for some time, it's only our leaders who fail to realize it. Our Nation is bi-territorial, given the large number of compatriots living in the United States. Hence, the Cuban side is more interested in the relationships flowing on both sides of the Straits of Florida. However, it seems that Obama will take the first step, not Raul.

I have difficulty calling to mind a single day in these last fifty years without the warning that the powerful neighbor was thinking of invading us. What will happen with the slogan, "Cuba Si! Yankees No!", with the imported shout of "Gringos" when we are all greeting them here cordially, the "yumas"? Most of the political speeches of the last fifty years would become anachronistic and there wouldn't be any "boogeyman" with which to frighten schoolchildren. What will the party militants think if they're ordered to accept those whom, until recently, they hated. How can David look good in the photos if, instead of the stone and the slingshot, he sits down to talk to Goliath.

Curiously, I don't see anyone on the streets upset in anticipation of these changes. The nervousness is only among those who have used the confrontation to stay in power. Rather, I observe the joy, the hope, the slight impression that the distance between Miami and Havana might become smaller and more familiar.

After reading the wires for the past few days, it sort of jumps out at you that her commentary doesn’t condemn the Congressional delegation for visiting Cuba or for failing to meet dissidents. When it comes to money from American travelers, it focuses on earnings that individual Cubans, not the government, will gain. It supposes that an American opening to Cuba, through diplomacy and travel, will be politically difficult for the Cuban government.

Maybe we should file this one under “the distance between Cuba and Miami.”

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

As usual from Yoani this is just a load of crap. Cuban government does not considers american people "the enemy" and thorough the years has welcomed the american people.

I don't think she even knows that cuban authorities not even put a visa or whatever in the passport of american travelers entering form a third country to help them to avoid the consequences of the silly traver ban to cuba.

Geez

Anonymous said...

regardless of her somewhat over the top comments, the influx of American tourists legally into cuba, the normalization of relations will have a major impact. that's the point isn't it, to change strategy to see if change and reform can come when the threat is removed. how could it not?

jose said...

Thanks for posting this. This is important and nuanced essay, as is most of Yoani's work.

If only the bablusians would read it and try to address the increasing gap between dissidents on the island and Miami hardliners.... of course, part of the gulf is very understandable - these miami folk have NEVER been to cuba (or haven't been in 20 years). You can't really know a place without going there and talking with REAL cubans.

Anonymous said...

Actually the purpose of normalization is just that, normalization.
Or are all the good congress people, who think they have to justify any normalization with Cuba with the hoped for 'reform', pressing for embargoes on Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam (just to name a few other dictatorships with whom we are happily trading) to achieve the same noble end?
I guess that in reality they are more influenced by the generous bribes, ahem, campaign contributions Barcardi et al are lavishing on their servants.

Anonymous said...

that's the point, putting normalization in context with 'democracy' is simply a red herring. USA has no problem dealing with far worse regimes without embargoes, terrorist attacks, plans for regime change (ok Iraq exception). Cuba represents a national policy issue and the refusal to accept Cuba's right to self-determination, when it confronted American hegemony. And then you throw in the lucrative embargo industry and the millions the gusanos have made from it.
normalize relations because its the sane thing to do, for both the US and Cuban interests. but don't attach any meaningless riders to it.
anonimo

John McAuliff said...

The ending of travel restrictions, will have a power impact on both countries.

Most everyone who travels to Cuba will come back feeling it is a normal place with problems and successes and that it is absurd for us to not have normal diplomatic and economic relations.

The process begins in the next few days if the President authorizes general licenses for all non-tourist travel (educational, religious, humanitarian, cultural, sports, etc. as well as family).

Please urge he do so ) through the White House Office of Public Liaison web page, http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/opl/ , preferably also faxing a copy to Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, at 202-647-7095

Anonymous said...

I am hanging this piece of news here because it is the last post. Jeffrey Sachs is at the University of Havana! See http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu/2009/04/10/nacional/artic13.html

Holy crap! Does this mean that the Cuban economists are trying to learn how to apply shock therapy to convert the economy from central planning to a market economy? Either the old foggies are truly mentally impaired or real change is being prepared!

One year I said! The clock is ticking!

Vecino de NF

Phil Peters said...

Holy crap indeed.

Anonymous said...

Phil Peters,

Can you confirm, and maybe augment with some background? Who invited JS, official sanction, etc?

Vecino de NF

Phil Peters said...

the article itself says:

"Invitado por el Centro de Investigaciones de la Economía Internacional de la Universidad de La Habana, cumple un amplio programa de actividades en Cuba junto a su colega, el profesor John H. Coatsworth..."

Karamchand said...

Lo que sucede no es nuevo bajo el sol; distintos bandos, en la misma orilla y en las opuestas, desean lo mismo, tienen la misma creencia de que el fin del embargo supondrá el fin de la dictadura. Esto es infatil, la dictadura, como dictadura termina y no influye gran cosa la presencia o no del embargo; no terminó cuando se permitió y propició la entrada del turismo en Cuba, no terminó cuuando se derrumbo el inepto sistema socialista de allende los mares. Termina ahora, porque la represión y la miseria es insoportable, termina ahora, porque vivimos en un mundo más comunicado, menos permisivo con la conculcación de los derechos humanos, termina ahora, porque el dictador se muere y el hermano es indeciso y débil, como lo hizo ese mismo dictador a través del tiempo.
Establecer una dependencia entre el embargo y el fin de la dictadura, un nexo entre el derecho de los norteamericanos a viajar a Cuba yel impacto de estos viajes, es infantil e intenta enmascarar y ocultar el verdadero propósito y origen del embargo. Esos norteamericanos que alegan su derecho a viajar a Cuba, desconocen el derecho de otros noreamericanos a ser indemnizados justamente y más que esto, a ser respetado el derecho a la propiedad privada legalmente establecida y que el dictador despojo de sus legítimos dueños. El embargo no fue ni es contra un gobierno, buscnado su caída, el embargo respondió y responde a defender el derecho conculcado por la dictadura de norteamericanos. No importa si han pasado 50 años, aun pervive esa injusticia, y como dice la Biblia, cuando no se hace justicia sobre la obra mala, el corazón de los hombres se engrosa y se repdispone a hacer el mal. Mientras no se repare y restaure el derecho de aquellos americanos y cubanos que fueron despojados, ¿que derecho pueden reclamar los de hoy sobre aquel que tiene precedente?. No es el embargo castigo o propósito, es ante todo justicia. Eliminarlo pensando en beneficios políticos o económicos, es ignorar la justicia debida a aquellos norteamericanos y cubanos despojados por la dictadura, misma dictadura que hoy medra en Cuba. No habrá libertad o democracia en Cuba si se ignora la justicia por beneficios políticos o económicos, se mermara la libertad y la democracia, si se anteponen esos ineresas a la justicia.

Anonymous said...

very interesting re Sachs coming to cuba. the cubans aren't stupid, nothing wrong with listening to Sachs and seeing if there is any value to be taken in what he is saying; if there is anything that can be applied to the cuban reality. what scared the cubans so much was how the soviets exploded, so any reform has to be done in control. i dont think its a keeping your enemies closer thing; but change often can take an energy of its own and this may be one more example of what's been going on lately.
i wouldn't over react to this but it sure is very interesting. its the million pieces from a million different angles that is often the framework for change.
anonimo

Anonymous said...

and there are two sides to Sachs; its not all shock therapy. he's been a vocal opponent of IMF policies, spoken strongly re climate change, globilization etc and his perspectives on poor countries is not entirely at odds with cubans point of view. maybe it was more of a two way exchange.

leftside said...

Sachs has admitted his shock therapy "experiments" (his word) in Eastern Europe were a failure. The likely reason Sachs now goes around talking about global poverty and debt relief is because his conscience haunts him - the tenfold increase in poverty in the USSR, the halving of GDP, the 13%increase in death rates.

Perhaps Sachs wanted to go to Cuba because Cuba is one of the few countries set to meet the Millenium Development Goals ahead of schedule (many have already been met). Sachs heads the MDG Project.

leftside said...

And yeah, Yoani's comments get more negative and divorced from reality in proportion with the attention she gets. Does she really believe that the "official version" of Cuba policy is that US tourists are "the enemy?" Does she really think the Cuban leadership is "nervous" about the prospect of better relations? Does she really think that the last 50 years of struggle will be "anachronistic" if indeed the US finally ends its hostile policy against Cuba? Are the "party militants" not capable of responding with a clear head to a potential new US policy?

Anonymous said...

yoani's comments are a little strange. the revolution is about self-determination, and while it is rooted in conflict with US, that conflict has been sustained by America. once that's removed the sense of patria won't disappear. why is it so hard to realize the cubans want normalization with US so they can improve their lives, it has nothing to do with anti-americanism once the americans stop giving them reasons to be anti-usa. you think if relations were normal the govt purpose to exist would end? the country's desire for self-determination would continue. is yoani afraid her notoriety would be at risk if relations normalized? or she so out of touch with cuban history and what the revolution was all about.

leftside said...

Thanks 2:59, you made my points better than me.

Anonymous said...

I thought Fidel Castro's self annointed destiny was to wage war agains the USA (June 1958 letter to Celia Sanchez). Also I guess noboby was asked to jump to demonstrate that they were not yanquis (wasn't there a Robertico Robaina's cheer along those lines?). Well I guess there must be good americanos and bad yanquis.

Puzzled but still unrabidly yours,

Vecino de NF

leftside said...

Vecino, it really is not that confusing. Cuban revolutionaries and anti-Imperialists everywhere will judge America on its actions. When the US ceases to act like it has the right to dictate terms to the region and works as a partner for progress and development, then there is no reason to struggle against them. The USA and Cuba are not destined to be antagonists. In 1958, Fidel had every right to vow to fight US Imperialism. And every Administration since then has thought it could dictate terms to Cuba and Latin America. When that ends, so will the reason for the struggle. Unless, you are arguing that it is in America's very core being to be Imperialistic - in which case, you are right, the struggle must continue.

Anonymous said...

Leftside,

Indulge me for a minute with a thought experiment!

Let us say that President Obama or one of his succesors preside over the conversion of the USA to a socialist country (let's ignore the means for now). Then let us say that the USA uses its vast resources to insist that every country in the Western Hemisphere should follow its example, and supports socialist politicians from the Artic circle to Tierra del Fuego. Would in that case the Cuban government will take it upon itself to oppose such hegemony or is socialism by definition not hegemonistic (does this word exist?)?

Vecino de NF

leftside said...

Hmmm... a Socialist US may be not as far off as I thought. According to a recent poll only 53% of Americans think capitalism is superior to socialism. 20% say socialism and 27% are not sure. Keep up the anti-socialism rhetoric Hannity and Limbaugh!!

As for the thought experiment, the answer is easy. The US should not be using its resources to influence politics anywhere outside its borders, no matter what stripe. The only exception would be if (say) a uber-Capitalist power like China was going around the world propping up petty right-wing politicians. Then the US would have the right to match their work. But that is why the principle of non-intervention is so important. It can easily get out of hand - as the Cold War showed us.

Anonymous said...

Leftside, no matter what Yoani or any Cuban dissident says, you'll always find fault with it. I don't think your "leftside" at all, I think you are simply a fanatic, dogmatic, castroite. Period. The only difference between the anti-castro comecandelas and you is that you are a pro-castro comecandela.

Anonymous said...

vecino
i'm surprised at your responses, you're usual less than rabid replies normally contain some understanding of the history of US-Cuban relations.
The revolution by its very nature was anti-american, because in 1959 75 per cent of all arable land was owned by foreigners, 90 per cent of that in US holdings. because the political system was serving american interests first through batista and the long line of pro-usa heads since 1898. because the highest levers of economic determination was in the hands of the americans. because Cuba was serving american interests first, not cuban. because america delayed the results of cuba's war of independence in 1898, commandeering for themselves the fruits of cuban efforts, imposing platt and a humiliating hegemony over cuba for 50 years -- yes with the compliance of a large percentage of the planter and other class. then america circumvented the 1933 revolution, and allowed the majority of cuban people, mostly in the countryside, to remain uneducated, ill fed, and unemployed.
fidels revolution was the final victory of the second war of independence. it was anti-american because america was the imperial power.
in 1868 and 1898 cuba fought against who -- spain of course, because they were the colonial power then. does Cuba survive on anti-spanish energies? is cuba anti-spanish? does cuba and spain have normal relations now?
for the past 150 years cuba has fought for its patria, achieved that with all its faults, in 1959. there's only been one power that has tried to destroy it ever since; the USA. once that ends both countries can get on with normality. The past 50 years won’t be wiped out because American finally acknowledges cuba’s right to self-determination. No more than America will end once it’s anti-castro policies are over.


anonimo

Russell said...

Nice to be able to read something from her since I've heard a lot about her and she's blocked here.

I've yet to encounter anyone here who contents that the U.S. people in general are the enemy. That goes for Party members and people you meet in the street. I'm sure one could find some, but in my experience that's not the norm.

Anonymous said...

Anonimo,

I am not sure where you got the information on land tenure in Cuba. According to Alvarez (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/FE481), in 1958 agricultural land in Cuba amounted to 9.1 million hectares. As a result of the 1959 Agraring Reform, 1.260 million hectares owned by US persons/corporations were expropriated. That amounts to 13.8% of the land. I would appreciate it if you can give us a citation we can use to confirm your figures.

As far as the rest of your comments, let us just say that Cuban history is far more complex that can be summarized in a blog posting.

Vecino de NF

Anonymous said...

vecino
thats a cop out; you assert the regime only survives on anti-americanism; i reply, you refuse on the grounds that cuban history is complex well no kidding, but that doesn't mean you can't respond. i'll take it you agree with my point then.

read any credible history of cuba, and youll see the percentages of arable land in foreign hands. your link is in regards to immediate reform, not what happened in years afterwards.

anonimo