Friday, August 3, 2007

"A national anesthesia"

It is hard to imagine the United States deciding that it would no longer grant 20,000 immigrant visas per year (which I would not advocate) or deciding to return “dry foot” Cubans who reach U.S. soil illegally and with no claim to refugee or asylee status (which would be a bitter pill, but one I would advocate with reluctance).

But the article quoted below puts its finger on what I have long found, when talking to people in Cuba, to be the number one political fact on the island – that the widespread desire to emigrate and the possibility, however small, of doing so successfully, blocks the vast majority of Cubans from ever thinking of political opposition. (For many, to be sure, there are other reasons too.) And I would add that the immigration policies mentioned above make it hard to argue that the so-called hard-line U.S. policy is a serious strategy to promote change in Cuba. At any rate, here’s how Adolfo Rivero Caro puts it in “Anestesia Nacional,” an op-ed in today’s El Nuevo Herald:

“The masses are not going to confront the dictatorship of the Castros as long as el exilio guarantees them a privileged means of emigrating. A political struggle against a dictatorship involves sacrifice, pain, and blood. Few seek it out deliberately. For that, they are heroes. What the immense majority wants is to leave the country. But political opposition is an obstacle to achieving this objective. And not only that. The hope of emigrating makes any mistreatment, any humiliation, any misery tolerable. And that sentiment spreads throughout the island, acting truly like a national anesthesia. In reality, the elimination of this strange privilege would be much more dangerous for the dictatorship than maintaining the embargo.”


leftside said...

Maybe there is something to this, but I disagree strongly that the potential of migration is the #1 political fact in Cuba.

Political opposition exists in every country in the world despite the (legal or ilelgal) ability to leave in each one. Cubans actually have a much harder time leaving than most others, because it is an island, therefore requiring thousands of dollars to get on a fast boat. The US visa lottery is just that - and I udnerstand the list is not even open for new applicants (for now). Rafting is not a serious option for most poor Cubans, as the risk is too high. As a percentage of those that leave, Cuba is not exceptional in the world. It is in line (or lower) with places that have had political ruptures like Ecuador, Ukraine, Phillipines, etc.

This argument is used by the hardliners to make excuses as to why there is so little fundamental opposition to the Revolution. It belittles the very real heartfelt feelings most Cubans have for it. Most who criticize in Cuba would not argue for scrapping the Revolution and starting anew with free market policies and their old Constitution. Of course political repression plays a role in supressing open organizing as well, but something not often remarked upon is the (increasing) political space within the Communist Party and mass organizations. There is plenty of opportunity to air grievances, and beleive it or not, socialism allows the opportunity to fix many things (unlike the US system, whereby health, education, culture, housing and the rest is all forever going downhill).

Troglo said...

La anestesia esta en ambos lados del estrecho de la Florida, y mientras tanto el perjudicado es el pueblo simple de Cuba. Tok

Anonymous said...

Let's see, they had 47 years to fix agriculture and that has gone downhill to the point of importing sugar and pineapples, produtcs that Cuba was exporting before the advent of socialism. Please don't mention the fact that little brother said himself that folks over 7 years old cannot even get a glass of milk. This after 47 years of revolution and the farms and milk production in state's hands. Yes I call that real progress.
"It belittles the very real heartfelt feelings most Cubans have for it".
And they betray those hertfelt feelings to the tune of over 2 million had escaped that wonderful paradise of equality every chance they got in the last 45 years. In fact in 1980 alone over 125,000 thousand displayed those hertfelt feelings in a few days by jamming an embassy to get the hell out of the paradise. And others just overstay when they travel outside the island on different occasions asking for asylum in the many countries they visit for studying, for commercial missions, medical missions, etc.
And oh yes, they have many opportunities to fix things in Cuba.
Maybe they should start by fixing the housing and the infrastructure of the cities which is abysmal with the lack of running water and sewage. Oh, wait I forgot, that is all the fault of the evil imperialism and its lackeys who with the blockade screw up everything. That must be the reason why in the so called "shoppings" one can find all the products sold in the USA but of course, they are only available in dollars, and naturally, Cubans get paid in pesos. What could be more logical? They sell the products in dollars and the people get paid in pesos to the tune of 25 pesos per dollar, so a product that sells for 2 dollars in the shoppings costs the average Cuban only 50 pesos. And the average salary is 3000 peasos at best. See how easy and logical that was? Isn't socialism great?

Anonymous said...

The average salary should have read 300 pesos, not 3000. Sorry for the typo. They wish it was 3,000 pesos!!

leftside said...

The Revolution accomplished many things in agriculture - record harvests, land reform, sustainable practices, the preservation of small town life... but will never be able to match the efficiency of the US (subsidized) mega mechanized system. They could not afford it either.

Cuba gave up on its sugar subsidies, it cut its losses - you know that (the US still spends 1.2 billion/year). They probably gave up a year too early, as prices have since rocketed. With pineapple, Cuba cut down on it because it was spreading disease (even Hawaii barely produces it now, having to complete with cheap labor and mechanization in Asia).

I won't address your OT stuff, as I have elsewhere.

Out of the Fog said...


Regular Cuban farmers are poorer since the Revolution. I can base this on actual testimony of family members still living in the Oriente province and the deterioration of their farmland due to State neglect. The majority of farmers were subsistent pre-revolution. Ever since, the promise of agrarian reform was never realized.
Of course, if you're going to draw your evidence on the State apparatus cooking-the-books method of statistics, then go right ahead.

leftside said...

"Poorer how?" I'd bet most farmers today own their own house and are without debt. They probably have have more ownership and control of their work than before. I'd bet they have running water and electricity and can read and participate in local affairs. They work fewer hours and are able to pass their craft down the line. They work less hours, have health care and probably have children who are studying to become doctors and agricultural economists.

They may have fewer things, it is true. But what is poverty? Farmers are always subsistent, but they have to feed the whole country and sell things abroad.