Stubbornness and Inefficiency Go Hand In Hand in the Cuban Leadership
A few days ago in the middle of the night they removed all the light bulbs that illuminated the corridor on the 14th floor where I live in Havana; a friend’s cat was stolen and shortly afterward she found the remains of what was evidently the sacrifice and feast that some neighbors made with her pet; in a line to buy frozen chicken, the crowd went wild as the door was opened and trampled on two old women who fell in the stampede.
All these scenes and many others have returned to populate the lives of Cubans, as they once did during the crisis of the 1990s that, in an excess of putting makeup on the language, the regime dubbed “The Special Period.” For those who were born in this century, the current social and economic disaster is the most serious of their lives, but my generation already has a couple of these deep material wounds, to its cost, while for my parents’ generation we must add the rigors suffered in the 70s.
The return of these vignettes of misery is part of a stubborn cycle that has touched the existence of everyone on this Island. Faced with so much repetition, some honest statesmen concerned about the country’s well-being would have redirection the national course, abandoned the practices that led to constant scarcities suffered by the population, or ceded their positions to more capable executives. But stubbornness and inefficiency go hand in hand in the Cuban leadership .
A few years ago, an analyst and writer asked an interesting question during a conference held at a study center in the capital: “How many more times must the implementation of Marxist economic ideas fail to conclude that failure is it inherent in the model?” If we apply that doubt to Castroism, then it is worth asking how many more crises will Cubans have to suffer so that officials understand that the system does not work? How many “special periods” must accumulate for the leaders of the Communist Party to recognize their inability to provide us with prosperity and freedom?
Yesterday I saw a girl break a chocolate cookie in two. “I’m going to eat half today and save the other for tomorrow for breakfast,” she said. My eyes watered. It reminded me of a scrawny and hungry teenager in a very long line to buy some little chicks that we had to raise in our apartment in the San Leopoldo neighborhood. After an hours-long line, plus blows and shoves, that young woman returned home with some tiny yellow animals, none of which survived her inexperience in raising poultry or lack of food.
Of those images from the 90s there are some we have yet to see. I hope they do not arrive: The rafts loaded on shoulders crossing the streets heading towards Havana’s Malecón; the friend who embarked on one and was never heard from again; the kerosene-flavored pizza that was the only food for a couple of days; the Numantine leader asking us for more sacrifices from the dais. How much longer must a people endure to conclude that conformity is inherent in their character?