Cubans Feel Like Hostages to Both Castro and Trump / Iván García
Ivan Garcia, 19 June 2017 — "Impotence." This is the word that a
performer in the Guiñol Theater (located in the basement of the FOCSA
building in Havana's Vedado district) uses when asked her opinion of the
new Trump Doctrine regarding Cuba.
On a day of African heat, a group of eight waits to navigate the
Internet in a hall administered by the state-run telecommunications
monopoly ETECSA. The performer exchanges opinions with the others
regarding the event of the week: the repeal by Donald Trump's
administration of Obama's policy of détente.
On the street, for those Cubans who earn only token salaries, breakfast
on coffee alone and complain constantly about the inefficiency of public
services and the government's inability to improve the quality of life,
political machination is just an annoyance.
Human Rights, democracy and political liberties all sound good, but they
are not understood in their full context. At least, this is what can be
deduced from the opinions expressed by the people waiting in line. Some
make clear that they are speaking from their personal perspective, that
they watched Trump on Telesur but have yet to read the measures for
For lack of time, and the propaganda fatigue brought on by the barrage
from the official press–which has caused many compatriots to decide to
not keep up with news reports but instead take shelter in social-media
gossip–the group waiting to go online is shooting to kill in all directions.
"Everybody talks about 'the people,' about the 'dissidents,' about the
Cuban American congressmen over there, about the government over here,
but nobody has hit on the formula for us to derive benefits from a
particular policy. Obama tried, but the gerontocracy that rules us did
not allow private business owners to get ahead. I feel like a hostage,
to Castro and to Trump. A puppet," the performer confesses.
One lady, a loquacious and chain-smoking housewife, asks, in a tone of
disgust, "What have the people gained from Obama's policy? Nothing." And
she explains to herself, "Those people (the government) don't want to
change. They will not give up," she says ironically, "the honey of
power. Trump is a crazy man, a clown. The guy is a pill. His speech was
pure theater. It's all cheap politicking. And in the middle of it all,
we Cubans are–and will remain–screwed. Nobody can change this [regime],
and nobody can take it down, either."
A self-employed worker affirms that he does not see a solution to
Cubans' problems because "we haven't had the balls to confront the
arbitrariness of the government. To hold on and and get screwed, that's
our fate. With all his yammering, the only thing Trump will achieve is
that the 'revolutionary reaffirmation' marches will start up again,
condemning 'yankee interference.' You can already see that coming."
At a park in Old Havana there are no optimists to be found, either. On
the contrary. "Damn, brother, I thought that The One was going to put
back the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot law. The only way this shit's going to be
resolved is letting people leave Cuba. You think that over here the
folks are going to sign up with the Ladies in White to get beaten up?
No, man, people will mind their own business, getting by under the table
and trying to scrape together a few pesos. There is no way that Cubans
will take to the streets. Unless it's to get in line at foreign
consulates, or if Gente de Zona put on a free concert," declares a young
man in the Parque del Curita, waiting for the P-12 line to Santiago de
Almost 60 years since the protracted and sterile political arm-wrestling
between the various US administrations and the Castro brothers, a broad
segment of the citizenry sees itself caught in a no-man's land–in a
futile battle for which nobody, not the Cuban rulers nor the US, has
asked their permission. They think also that political naiveté has
always reigned supreme in the White House, given the oft-repeated
intentions to export democratic values to a fraternity of autocrats with
the mentality of gangsters and neighborhood troublemakers.
"It is a narrative replete with personal ambitions, pseudo-patriotic
elation and cheap nationalism, which has served only to consolidate a
history of sovereign and intransigent rulers who never allowed North
American interference. It's fine for a tale, but this politics of
confrontation on both sides has left only one winner: the regime of
Fidel and Raúl Castro. The rest of us have been the losers. Those who
were not in agreement with the Revolution or who wanted to emigrate were
called 'gusanos' [worms]. Families were split up and kept from having
contact with relatives in the US. The result of all this is what we see
today: a great number of Cubans who cannot tolerate those who think
differently from them, many who want to emigrate, women who don't want
to have children in their homeland and, in general, a great indifference
on the part of citizens towards the problems of their country," explains
a Havana sociologist.
The official reaction has been restrained. For now. A functionary with
the Communist Party assures me that "the government is not going to wage
a frontal campaign to discredit Trump. Yes, of course, the various
institutions of the State will mobilize to demonstrate that the
government has it all under control. But Trump's speech was more noise
than substance. Except for the matter of US citizens' travel to Cuba,
which undoubtedly will affect the national economy, the rest [of the
Obama-era policies] remains in place, because the military-run
businesses are only two hotels.
The owner of a paladar [private restaurant] in Havana believes that "if
the yumas [Cuban slang for Americans] stop coming there will be effects
on the private sector, because almost all of them stay in private homes,
travel around the city in convertible almendrones [classic cars], and
eat lunch and dinner in private paladares."
The news was not good for Cubans who had plans to emigrate to the US.
"Many dreamers thought that Trump was a cool guy and would reinstate the
Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy. I was not expecting as much, but I thought at
least that the Cuban-American congressmen would influence Trump's
allowing the exceptional granting of visas to Cubans stuck in Central
America, Mexico and the Caribbean, and reactivating the asylum for Cuban
medical workers who have deserted their missions," said a engineer who
dreams of resettling in Miami.
The perception right now among Cubans on the street is that they are
back to a familiar scenario. One of trenches. Replete with
anti-imperialist rhetoric and zero tolerance for liberal thought of any
stripe. The scenario most favorable for the hierarchs who dress in olive
Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison
Source: Cubans Feel Like Hostages to Both Castro and Trump / Iván García
– Translating Cuba -