Weapons for What?
A cart is being unloaded at the butcher’s in Havana’s Carlos III Plaza. The crowd throws itself on it. There are shouts, shoves and occasional blows while two men grab several boxes of frozen chicken shouting, “This is mine!” It’s Tuesday and just a couple days since it transpired that Russia will grant Cuba credits for the acquisition of weapons.
The news of the 50 million dollars Moscow is giving to the island to strengthen its military sector has been received as a slap in the face by many Cubans who see the food shortages and the rising prices. In the midst of increasingly pronounced scarcities, it is difficult to understand that one of the agreements reached with the Kremlin will used to train troops, buy munitions and repair equipment for war.
The destiny of those resources is even more absurd because Cuba is not involved in any armed conflict, faces no disputes within its territory and is unlikely to be attacked by any foreign power. Wasting this money only makes sense if it can be explained as part of a geopolitical plan the Kremlin can boast about to the White House. A frequent thing on an island that, so many times, has been a diplomatic chess piece between these two countries.
For some years now, the ghost of the Cold War has returned with plans for Cuba, and the latest diplomatic approaches between Vladimir Putin and Miguel Díaz-Canel are reminiscent of those times when the country orbited around the Soviet Union, deployed its soldiers in Africa to please Moscow and received substantial resources from the Russian coffers to be able to demonstrate social achievements far removed from its true economic potential.
Cuba was a showcase, a spearhead and cannon fodder for the USSR and now it is the launching pad for Putin’s expansionism in Latin America. A sad destiny for a country whose authorities repeat the rhetoric of sovereignty while they depend, more and more every day, on other governments to forgive our debts, give us funds or subsidize – in one way or another – our unsuccessful system.
Playing at war is not only ridiculous, at this time when the national economy can’t even raise its head and thousands of Cubans are packing their bags to escape the island, tired of waiting for a recovery that does not come, but it is also evidence of the disconnect between the Plaza of the Revolution and the streets. While some are thinking about how to poke a finger in Washington’s eye, citizens want policies that promote prosperity, development and improvements in services.
With the announcement of the $50 million to buy weapons, it is very difficult not to be reminded of the number of lost hours that several generations of Cubans have had to spend on military training, evacuation drills and ridiculous maneuvers to defend ourselves against an enemy that never arrived. Those were the years when official propaganda very skillfully used the fear of a foreign invasion to force us to close ranks and shut up. The presumed immediacy of an armed conflict was used as a gag, a distraction and a decoy.
However, the war story is becoming less credible. The real battle is the one that we experience every day to be able to find food, to travel from one place to another, to get medicines, and the ongoing struggle with the excessive bureaucracy. All those weapons that will be purchased are not designed to deter an enemy, but to frighten us as citizens. They are bullets of persuasion and threat that will fall on us.