Anthony DePalma’s article is great in its ambitions, but it falls short in explaining some critical causes of what he is trying to illustrate. DePalma describes well the process by which generations of Cubans, like the character of the story he is telling us, have lost their faith in the Revolution and its numerous programs. By focusing on the récit de vie of Ms. Caridad Limonta, DePalma introduces us to the decline of a class that has been historically profiting from a political system favoring those who are committed with the revolutionary process and excluding those who are against it. Now, desilusionados with the Revolution, they leave aside what they once believed and are searching for new ways to adapt to the crisis of despair that seems endemic to Cuba.
In this political system, DePalma argues, people who are disenchanted with the Revolution, as Ms. Limonta, has merely three options: 1) to risk their lives trying to get illegally to the United States; 2) to practice auto-censure in order to adapt and survive; 3) to fight against the political system and « invite harassment » to their lives. DePalma’s character has chosen the silence and the survival alternatives. He then follows the story by showing how Ms. Limonta has renounced to the Revolution, pursued capitalist ventures in Cuba, and received warmly President Obama during his visit to Havana in 2016. This, argues the author, illustrates a big change in the ideological mind-set of a character whose point of departure was that of an «absolute» faith in the Revolution, and it is now convinced that «the revolution is lost».
DePalma is right when he says that most Cubans have lost their faith in the Revolution and are getting more and more disenchanted with the hard conditions of life they are still enduring. But, seriously, misery is disenchanting in whatever political system we live in. And, honestly, popular disenchantment has been the main element of the psychological war that the United States has been conducting against Cuba since the beginning of hostilities between the two countries. By imposing economic and political sanctions to Cuba, administrations in the White House are trying to induce from the exterior both popular resentment and the so desired internal uprising that will lead to a provisional government friendly to the United States.
A great number of now declassified documents shows how Washington’s desires to create resentment among Cuban population have been a key element in the decision-making process of foreign policy options against Cuba (1). The primary goal of the Embargo imposed on Cuba was precisely to isolate the country from the Western hemisphere and to create the hard-economic conditions that will contribute to a political crisis within the country. Kennedy’s administration knew well that Soviet Union’s aid was not enough for Cuba’s development and only served to secure Castro’s political power. So, even with the aid of the Soviet Union, Cuba was not in position to develop autonomously and, unfortunately, critical resources were directed mainly to the military complex. What is more, Cuban industry was at the time heavily dependent on American technology and this technological dependence caused significant problems for Cuba’s industrial development. Misery for Cuban people was thus rooted in the structure of an asymmetrical relationship with the United States. By putting Cuba under “siege”, Washington implemented a series of constraining policies that produced, and still produces, a lot of suffering in people’s ordinary life. If the question of disenchantment has to be asked and answered, every explanation must then include the significant role that the United States have played in this process. And this is something that Anthony DePalma avoid doing well in his analysis of Caridad Limonta’s story.
Many Cubans have lost their faith in the Revolution and many others are convinced that the curse of Cuba is rooted in Communist ideology and institutions. They could be right, or not. I do not really know. Yet, every pancake has two sides and no independent variable must be left aside of serious analysis.
As Ms. Limonta, I also have a lot of questions. For example:
Why Eisenhower did not receive Fidel Castro when he first visits the United States in 1959? Why, for example, Cuban first reforms were not recognized as legitimate, since most of those reforms, mainly agrarian reforms, were promoted in Latin America by the Alliance for Progress during Kennedy’s administration? Why the United States did not listen, and still do not listen, to the propositions for a « peaceful coexistence » coming from the Cuban leadership? How Washington succeeded in isolating Cuba from Latin America in 1962 and what are the effects of this foreign policy in Cuba’s political and economic development? What was the purpose of the nuclear missiles installed in 1962? Was the Cuban government right, or not, in trying to secure the survival of the Revolution?
Everyone remembers the almost nuclear war that humanity survived in those historical times as well as the apparently irrational telegram that Fidel Castro send to Khrushchev in October 1962 (2). Still, nobody seems to be interested in the plans of invasion and intervention that the CIA, the Department of State and the White House, were plotting after the Bay of Pigs’ disaster. In the world of sovereign states, the foreign policy conducted by the United States against Cuba is not rightful and does not fully respect the principles that gave rise to the United Nations.
For all those reasons, I truly believe that the « inconvenient truth » for America is this one: systematic harassment – political and economic – coming from the United States, the most powerful nation in the history of the world, and targeting the Cuban population, has been causing a great resentment in Cuban population from decades. This was intentional and very well planned by the CIA, the Department of State and the White House. Popular resentment against the Revolution has thus been historically induced in Cuba through the psychological war that the United States has been fighting against what it must be called a micro-State.
As a Cuban citizen, I will not develop an international Stockholm syndrome. I do not support the foreign policy that the United States has been historically pursuing against Cuba. I think is bad for both Cubans and America. After all, President Bush Jr. self-reflection at the aftermath of 9/11 – “why do they hate us”-, is a powerful illustration of the negative consequences that the systematic practice of international harassment over underdeveloped and nominally sovereign states has generated for the greatness of America. In order to be Great Again, the United States will need the support of the majority of states in the international system. If not, the United States could become an authoritarian global state recurring to military force and international harassment to enforce its will. Sure, the Cuban Revolution seems now “lost”. So, long live the Bully!
- Report on US Policy toward Cuba, March 15, 1962, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archive of the Federal Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, File 88497, vol. 1, http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114513
- Telegram from Fidel Castro to N. S. Khrushchev, October, 1962, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archive of Foreign Policy, Russian Federation (AVP RF), http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114501
*Ph.D. candidate in Political science and International Relations. University of Montreal email@example.com