Thursday, October 28

Cuba: social explosion amid hardship

A vehicle with special police forces passes through a neighborhood in the center of Havana.

A vehicle with special police forces passes through a neighborhood in the center of Havana.

The protest in Cuba – which has already claimed one death and an undetermined number of wounded and detained – has no precedent since Fidel Castro triumphantly entered Havana on January 8, 1959. The protest, with its scenes of conato, vehicles police destroyed and looting, was desired by an opposition as heterogeneous as inorganic. The Government also knew that the objective conditions so that the unrest would spread through the streets. However, he continued to rely on analog snooping and control mechanisms. He has not measured the anger that was accumulating in the virtual sphere and which only needed to begin to have a real presence. So it happened.

Accumulation of external and internal factors have created the social bomb: the United States sanctions – whose damages in 2020 were $ 5 billion– and the effects of the pandemic in an economy that is sustained mainly by tourism and remittances, have brought the lives of Cubans back to the worst years of hardship: the so-called Special Period in Times of Peace, decreed by Fidel after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the main partner and commercial support of Havana. If something was missing to complete the analogy between this present of scarcity and those 90s it was the power outages. The blackouts darkened the horizon more. The advance of covid-19 in some provinces ended up lighting the fuse.

Children and grandchildren of precariousness

The images that have managed to circumvent the informational fence are eloquent: they came out especially young people, children and even grandchildren of the Special Period, from different extractions. The component has not been accidental Afro-Cuban in the protest: it is the sector that has the least benefited from remittances. President Miguel Díaz Canel calls them “confused” one day and “terrorists” the next. Beyond the labels, the protests that broke out on Sunday represent for the authorities a unprecedented political challenge.

Many young people carry the weight of disappointment on their shoulders: they neither study nor work. Cuba has more than seven million people of working age. Official statistics indicate that only 4.6 million do so. More than two million are considered “inactive,” a euphemistic way of saying they lack regular employment. Among them are many of those who said enough, sometimes with slogans that would flatter Donald Trump. Added to that is a new political and cultural dissidence that cannot be labeled right-wing.

Díaz Canel clings to a partly wrong diagnosis: everything is the consequence of an external conspiracy, with the blockade as the main sword, and of manipulation in the networks. The legitimacy of the political and economic model is out of question. They came out to demonstrate deceived. It has been installed, he said, “that discourse that the government is repressing peaceful demonstrations.” The protagonists of the revolt “are called by hate that has been instilling in them all that strategy of subversion so outrageously mounted. “The president asked Cubans not to let themselves be” intoxicated “by what they receive on their phones and that give the idea of ​​an” ungovernable “island. For now, the internet has been put on hold.

The political conflict is so new that an unusual actor has even intervened: the Catholic Church, with complex relations with Castroism for six decades. The Bishops’ Conference said it cannot “close your eyes like nothing is happening“when” they took to the streets thousands of people in cities and towns. “The tone of the letter represents an added challenge for Díaz-Canel. The bishops acknowledge that the Government” has tried to take measures to alleviate the aforementioned difficulties “. But, at the same time, they add that”the people have the right to demonstrate their needs, desires and hopes and, in turn, to publicly express how some measures that have been taken are seriously affecting them “.


The setting is delicate. The Government redoubles its efforts to mitigate the blackouts and, at the same time, advance in the fight against Covid-19 that threatens to collapse the hospital system in some regions. Cuba bet on its biotech pole – a true island in a sea of ​​unproductiveness – to develop its own vaccines and convert them into exportable goods. Sovereign and Abdala it has an efficiency of 90%, according to official information.

Some observers point out that Havana took many risks when it decided, last year, to refrain from buying Russian or Chinese immunizers, as well as participating in the COVAX vaccine platform of the WHO. He concentrated his efforts on developing his own drugs. Their scientific findings collided with difficulties to import components and syringes. Despite the problems, vaccination progressed in Havana. Only massive punctures can, in these hours, give the Government at least one political victory. The causes of the crisis will, however, remain latent.

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