The bad strategist

por Alina Bárbara López Hernández

Nationalism has been, by far, the most influential and lasting school of thought in Cuban history. Born in the colonial period, it revealed itself in literature, music and theater; in attitudes, idiosyncrasy and daily life, until it erupted in a military conflict –a late one if we compare it to the rest of the American continent, but no less deep and decisive for it.

Thirty years later, the predicament of a nation liberated from its pillaging colonial power and fallen into the hegemonic orbit of its northern ‘savior’, fueled a culture of resistance which established the island and its symbols as a shield against any foreign penetration.

Nothing was an obstacle for the nationalism of the old republic. You could be liberal or conservative, but a nationalist. You could follow the Authentic Party, or the ABC, or the Orthodox Party or the Communist Party, and be a nationalist. You could be bourgeois, petit bourgeois, a farmer, a proletarian, an artisan, a student, a feminist, an intellectual, yet still a nationalist.

Ignoring this has caused the US government to constantly err in its policies toward an island populated today by millions of people with differing political views –even though the official discourse and the attitudes of the Cuban government fail to display that–, but whom nationalism brings together at certain times when the nation and those of us who live in it –or those who live elsewhere, but consider themselves part of it– are offended.

Because no one will be able to convince me that increasing the harshness of a crisis or contributing to the hardships and shortages is a way of caring for our well-being. Defending Cubans? That’s an implausible promise from a President who left his Kurdish allies unprotected against Turkish aggressiveness.

Who could possibly believe that the measures he announced are designed for the benefit of the Cuban people? A people that lives in habitual poverty, with shortages of food and medicines, with crowded hospitals lacking more or less everything, with a wide segment of the population in precarious old age, with animal clinics where veterinarians are overwhelmed by the lack of medications.

They will affect the government, yes, but the ones who will feel the real pressure in daily life will be us, the vast majority of Cubans, not the bureaucracy in the island who, at most, will occasionally pull over their cars to offer people a ride.

What’s the point the American President wants to prove? Without these draconian measures the structural warping of the island’s economy, the stagnation of indexes and the sustained drop of the GDP were evident. That has been studied at length by the excellent Cuban economists. If up North they are convinced of the failure of socialism, then why don’t they allow it to naturally run its course?

Trump’s Government needs the Florida votes in order to secure reelection –Holy Impeachment or common sense forbid!–, but he affects one of the hard cores of Cubans: the relationship with their families. On Saturday 26, the digital site CiberCuba published the preliminary results of a survey in which 4 400 users have participated so far. 62% oppose Washington’s decision, while 38% support it. They are certainly not ideologically attached to socialism or to the Cuban Government, but they are attached to what matters: family, which is the cornerstone of the Homeland.

President Díaz-Canel said recently in Ireland that benefitting Cuban expatriates with measures such as lowering the price of passports and facilitating procedures would depend on the US Government. There’s your answer, President, Cubans who live outside their country mostly reject Trump’s harassment policy. How can we reward their unconditional loyalty to family? Isn’t it time that Cuba change its unfair treatment of its expatriates?

A ruler should have good advisors –we also need them here. One thing is coarse political propaganda and a very different thing is objective, serious analysis that rises above rigidity of thought, a problem that exists on both shores, by the way.

I owe a friend the possibility of having read the excellent text The Soviet Century. Its author, Moshe Lewin, explains in the introduction that a mistake of the political propaganda against the USSR was to mainly target its ‘undemocratic’ nature, which entailed writing an endless list of ‘non-democratic’ features, and thus deal with what the country wasn’t instead of analyzing what it was.

In its relations with Cuba, the US does the exact same thing. For a long time it has customarily promoted opposition in the island. The only way people here had to voice their disagreement with the government was resorting to means of propaganda based in Miami. But those groups did not garner the support of the majority of citizens, they still don’t. It may be out of fear in some cases; out of civil demobilization occasionally; out of disapproval for an opposition discourse which replicates concepts alien to social imagery, to an epic history of the process, to education, to media propaganda…

What’s true is that now the conditions have been modified. The increase of internet services, the access of Cubans to the social networks, the conveniences they create to receive and spread information, analysis, opinions and points of view, are opening up possibilities for the citizens to respond to our Government and to become aware of the economic and political transformations Cuba needs.

It’s a critical mass of people who disagree with the bureaucratic model of socialism we have, but also disagree with the hegemonic and aggressive policy of Donald Trump’s Government. These are people who equally reject the pro-American opposition and the abusive and unconstitutional reactions of the Ministry of the Interior and the Police against that opposition.

The President of the United States might be a good businessman, but he is a very bad political strategist. While he viciously attacks Cuba, Latin America rallies against neoliberalism. As he every day thinks of how to affect us, he loses ground with old allies in the Middle East and to Russia. The Ukraine scandal has made him look very badly in his country, and the measures against Cuba have made his image suffer greatly in the eyes of most Cubans. Study the past and recent history of this island, Mr. President. If what you mean is to divide and conquer, I assure you you’re playing your cards very poorly.

(Translated from the original)