Cuba and the Dystopia in the Window

By Rosa Miriam Elizalde on October 17, 2019

Photo: Bill Hackwell

Hispanist Karl Zeligman said he was 12 years old when he left Germany in 1939 on a plane occupied by Jewish children bound for London. Upon arrival in British airspace, the control tower banned the landing and required the pilot to return to Germany. He faked a breakdown and forced landed, aware of what awaited the passengers if they returned to their country. For decades Professor Zeligman still dreamed that he was on that plane and that they never landed in London. His nightmare, he knew, was the reality where others found themselves.

We have seen dozens of films with a similar frame: someone looks through the window of his present and through the glass sees himself, simultaneously, crossing the street of a dystopia: demonstrations, tanks, tear gas, snipers. In 1984, by Orwell, everything also seems normal until it is seen that it has ceased to be so: It was a bright and cold day in April, and the clock was one in the afternoon…. Then the horror.

Standing in front of the Havana Malecón, with the sea a little shaken by the winds from the north, I feel that if my country were normal, the announcements made by President Miguel Díaz-Canel a month ago due to the lack of fuel supply would have had the dystopian outcome of Ecuador, with the effervescent effects of economic neoliberalism, authoritarianism and popular protests.

But no, Cuba is not an ordinary country. The siege imposed almost 60 years ago by the United States does not seem to have been enough for its implacable executors and so they entered a new phase as of June 2017. Since then, the Trump administration has implemented 179 measures – more than 50 in 2019 – including a selective naval blockade that hinders the arrival in the country of the fuel needed for public transportation, factories and domestic lighting.

On September 11, Diaz-Canel denounced the ship-to-shore persecution and negotiation-to-negotiation, and asked for the collaboration of the people. The country began to operate with 62 percent of the fuel, the price of gasoline was not raised and there was confidence in the saving measures of the citizens to avoid blackouts in the residential sector. In this abnormal country there were no neoliberal adjustments with budget cuts for social activities, nor price increases, nor shock measures.

Aimee Machu, 52, told The Guardian’s special envoy on a Havana street, “If we have to go through power outages again, we will.” Nuerca Sánchez, a 45-year-old rumba teacher, explained to the newspaper the Cuban’s reaction to the crisis these days; “Helping each other is not just a matter of politics… It’s about having a good heart.”

I look at the testimonies of The Guardian, because to be a journalist in Cuba and to try to document without cynicism the adhesions of the street to the measures of the communist government, usually is under suspicion. Those of us who operate outside the armored hegemony of the media that present Cuba as a dystopian version of the Jurassic Park of the Caribbean, receive offensive disqualifications, fundamentally from the networks dominated by hatred, the most extreme fallacies of argument and a visceral refusal to attend to reason and data that contradict them.

But the facts are stubborn. Anyone here knows that there is much to improve even within the limits of the blockade – starting with the public media – but something strange is happening on this Caribbean island that, condemned and harassed, runs out of fuel and there is not a single poor person in the public square demanding the end of the government, no curfews, no tariffs, no snipers shooting at the head of a man who has no weapon other than the flag of his country, no missing persons, no prefects like Paola Pabón imprisoned in Ecuador, no children hospitalized from the effects of tear gas.

In fact, what President Diaz-Canel said came true; the acute fuel crisis is happening. Right now there are no lines at the gas stations -and not because there is no gas station-, public transportation has been restored little by little, the internal market is more flexible and life returns to its daily frugality.

Cuba, with a blockade but without the IMF, once again demonstrates that it can provide political and social stability to 11 million citizens, while The Nightmare That Never Ends, as researchers Christian Laval and Pierre Dardot call neoliberalism in the book of the same name, is turning the victory of fascism from which Professor Zeligman fled into a possibility in countries that are not only not blocked, but are free of the dirty war in which Donald Trump uses his entire arsenal of media and diplomacy as weapons of political manipulation.

Dystopia, yes, but it is on the side of those who obey Washington.

Source: La Jornada, translation, Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau