NO EMBARGO, NO CRY
ORLANDO LUIS PARDO LAZO
MARCH 18, 2015
This article is part of The Mantle’s series Against Censorship.
The U.S. embargo against the Cuban government is like those recurrent
childhood nightmares, for both Cubans living on the Island and abroad.
Oh, the Embargo Embargo: limit of our life, fire of our leaders…
During decadent decades the Cuban Revolution has been defined by that
urge of surviving in a besieged place, where distrust and the hate
speech are officially justified by the tricky threat of a foreign foe,
where an invisible U.S. invasion was enough to promote impunity within
the Island, including the need of a messianic savior: Fidel, just
Fidel—because calling him Castro could be considered a first symptom of
And public dissent begets personal disaster in dictatorships.
We Cubans are fed with the populist paranoia of Fidel in our mothers’
milk. In turn, this rule of Fidelity feeds a paternalistic State where
citizens always behave like children. All responsibilities rely upon the
Revolution. Behaviorism in the time of barbarity. Discipline as the
substitute of both duty and desire. Meanwhile all our fundamental
freedoms were embargoed by the Cuban authorities as a displaced
vengeance for the U.S. embargo against them.
At first, with the Soviet satellite republics nourishing the Cuban
economy, our Commander in Chief was making jokes about how useless the
U.S. embargo was to prevent his Revolution from turning Cuba into a
First World nation:
– “There will be enough milk produced in Cuba to fill Havana bay.” (1966).1
– “The effect of the American blockade has been to require us to work
harder and better, it has been effective in favor of the Revolution.”
– “The language of force does not intimidate us, we have been cured of
it, so the blockade is now a subject of scorn and laughter.” (1969).3
– “Happily, we depend on the U.S. for nothing. No trade, no food,
– “Economic relations with the U.S. would not imply any basic benefit
for Cuba, no essential benefit,” (1985).5
In the 1990s, however, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the
restoration of democracies in Latin America, Castro had to retool his
propaganda machinery. The U.S. embargo suddenly proved to be the genesis
of all social debacles on the Island. The economic sanctions threatened
our sovereignty more than a coup d’état, and as such the world was to
condemn them but with no mention of the scarcity of the fundamental
rights for the Cuban people (including the exiles, now more than
one-fifth of our population).
Generation after generation, resistance to Cuban totalitarianism has
become synonymous with the fine art of waiting. From ideology to
hypocrisy to idiocy, Cubans are experts in expecting with no expectation
at all. Anything goes, from fighting the Ebola virus in Africa to
signing a Major League contract worth several million dollars.
Once we were austere, once we even had an astronaut, maybe we have just
gone astray. Stigmatized as “worms” by the Castroites, many Cubans are
indeed waiting for biopolitics—or rather necropolitics—to finish its
work on a half fossil Fidel, a Marxterialist Methuselah about to turn
89, shrunken like a magic-realist character by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
who, by the way, was his close collaborator and a spokesman of the Cuban
The alternative to indolence is to emigrate to the northernmost province
of our country: Miami-Hialeah and other post-totalitarian towns, where
we can rent a so-called “efficiency” to watch this film from the burger
side of the embargo. Big Brother Marx is easily overwhelmed by a Big Mac.
The end of the economic and financial embargo against Cuba—still
inconceivable since the U.S. Congress is reluctant to change the
law—should then imply the end of the Castrozoic Cold War Era, still
ongoing by sheer inertia on the Caribbean island. And we all enjoyed a
preview with the miraculous milestone of last December 17, when the
simultaneous speeches of President Barack Obama and General Raul Castro
announced the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, a pluribus duo, with
liberty and justice for none—or perhaps only for the subscribers of The
New York Times, after endless op-eds paved the way for the White House
to pay the way for the Chamber of Commerce to invest in Cuba, just as
their members did in the Fabulous Fifties.
This adulterated affair of a democracy with a dictatorship is about to
seal the self-transition from power to power taking place on the Island
today. The Cuban dynastic model of State capitalism is already pregnant
with a baby dictatorcracy called Castrolandia 2.0. The next Putin-like
president is likely to be Alejandro Castro Espin, who, like the Russian
autocrat, is a colonel linked to state security who happens to be the
son of Raul Castro, who in turn has promised to step down in 2018 at the
age of 87 years with six decades of control behind him.
The pros and cons of this unexpected approach are not as relevant as the
perverse point that there are no right or wrong options when it comes to
monolithic regimes. No deal is dear with the Castro family. Every
engagement is co-opted for their own convenience, because all the levers
of society remain at their disposition without any limits.
Despite Obama’s rhetoric that breathed life into the Cuban
establishment, the alternative to Communism is not likely to be
consumerism, but Communism itself. Or collapse. After Fidel, the Flood.
And Obama seems to be advancing a helping hand to us before a migratory
crisis extends its hideous hands to the U.S., as it is being announced
already in the record numbers of rafters and Cubans illegally crossing
U.S. borders, before and after December 17.
Since the nuclear missile crisis of October 1962, these “human missiles”
have been used as a pressuring position by Havana in its dialogues or
diatribes with Washington, DC. That is why on Island, the rumor is that
the Cuban Adjustment Act, which privileges Cubans to apply for a
permanent resident status after one year and a day in America, will
vanish somehow with the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between
the White House and Revolution Square.
And so we keep voting with our feet in a sort of pedestrian’s plebiscite
to kiss goodbye the Revolution—a fleeing flow that is 100% political
precisely because 100% of Cuban migrants hurry to declare that they are
only looking for economic benefits. What kind of benefits when they had
free education, free sports, free arts, free health and free et ceteras
on the Island? Farewell, Fidel.
Americans can come to Cuba in the search of profits. Cubans keep
quitting their proletarian paradise in search of only we know what.
“Yankees, come home” echoes in the so-called Key to the Gulf for the
first time in the history of our hemisphere. Americans are more than
welcome to appease our tired tyranny with their new markets for the New
Man to cease being a soldier and become a salesman. Money is time in
this equation to build a stable status quo for the region, which is a
major concern for America’s national security. In gold they trust: bring
down the wall means open up the wallet. This explains the urgency of
Google, Amazon, Delta, Netflix, Coca-Cola, and even Bacardi to
re-conquer the once-called Pearl of the Antilles. Meanwhile, a multitude
of five-year multiple-entry U.S. visas is being granted to Cubans of all
ages, before and after December 17.
If 50-plus years of U.S. diplomatic stalemate and economic sanctions
failed to bring freedom to the Cuban people it is because these were
never designed to bring freedom to the Island, but to penalize a regime
that started by sequestering Cuban sovereignty with anti-democratic
procedures, including the violent illegalization of civil society and
all forms of property—both private and public, including the
press—forcing up to one-fifth of our population to live in exile today.
The 50-plus years to come of U.S. capitalist engagement with Cuba cannot
guarantee fundamental freedoms for our people, because a market economy
is not a redemptive formula per se, and it has been implemented by many
authoritarian systems to deny all basic rights. But “rights” is a
worn-out word that President Obama, Pope Francis, and General Castro
have eagerly agreed to postpone during almost two years of secret
negotiations: Cuban democracy, like heaven, can wait.
What has been good for Americans since the Eighteenth Century is still
not good enough for Cubans in the Twenty-first Century. This is the
basis of revolutionary racism, a discriminatory concept cruelly
conceived by American academics in their search of a lost Left. First
world democracies seem disappointed to support pro-democracy movements
anymore in the Third World, while Castroism keeps on being more than
proud to Castrify other countries —Venezuela is the most tragic example
Oh, bama! Why not take advantage of these U.S.-Cuba negotiations to seat
the historical gerontocracy in olive-green uniforms at the same table
with the emerging civil leaders on the Island? Don’t we deserve this
after we have achieved so much in the struggle for freedom of speech and
to raise awareness of human rights violations and the overall
anthropological damage in Cuba? If the Castros want to be treated as a
normal government, shouldn’t the Castros constitute a normal government
But as it has been impossible to hold the Cuban government accountable,
the lesser evil now seems to be to promote “Cuban civil society” only
for political correctness in presidential speeches, while in fact
excluding us from the establishment to come: State capitalism with the
sheepskin of a soulcialism.
In moral terms the unpopularity of U.S. policies, given the popularity
of the Cuban Revolution worldwide, should be less important than
securing that a true transition to democracy will take place in Cuba
soon. Unless, of course, advancing American interests in the Western
Hemisphere still means advancing American interests in Western Union.
Despite any goodwill of the U.S. executive branch enforcing resolution
after resolution, involving certain congressmen and think tanks and NGOs
and press magnates and corporate tycoons that shake Raul Castro’s hand
without asking him a single uncomfortable question, what is being
legitimized is a clan that abolished the Cuban Congress and Cuban think
tanks and Cuban NGOs and the Cuban Chamber of Commerce and all Cuban
press except that belonging to the Communist Party.
I am not sure about “what everybody needs to know about Cuba”—as the
American scholar Julia Sweig might say—but rather about what nobody
dares to know about Cuba. Even if this is a small step for democracy,
it’s also a giant leap against independence. And decency. The U.S.
change in its Cuban policy is the latest victory of The End of History:
from the Spanish-American War to the Anti-Imperialist Revolution, the
growing “common marketization” of international relations is what really
counts and “Cuban” continues to be out of date.
Milan Kundera, maybe the best Cuban novelist who is a Czech who writes
in French and lives in Switzerland—a perfect mix for liberty—knew that
“the old dead make way for the young dead” for “the struggle of man
against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
“Dialogues between the elites are not the path of the people,” said the
assassinated leader of the Cuban Christian Liberation Movement Oswaldo
Payá—winner of the European Parliament’s 2002 Sakharov Prize for Freedom
of Thought. Dead since July 22, 2012—like Polish priest Popie?uszko in
the mid-1980s— in a traffic “accident” denounced as an extrajudicial
killing by the surviving witness who was driving the car, Payá and his
peaceful activists managed to collect more than 25,000 signatures on the
Island to legally democratize our society, as established by the Cuban
Constitution. The Castros’ reaction was dozens of incarcerations, forced
expatriations and, ultimately, his murder by the Ministry of the Interior.
Is the Obama administration willing to mention such delicate details in
The New Deal with Cuba or will there be no solidarity with Payá’s
family, who has been requesting an independent investigation since that
sad Sunday that abolished the hope of an inclusive country? And not just
a clowntry club for cowboys, a post-totalitarian museum turned into a
tourist theme park or worse, into a mausoleum of martyrs like Orlando
Zapata—left to die during a hunger strike—Laura Pollán—our second
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought—and Oswaldo Payá?
Respect for universal values like life, mercy, beauty, truth, and
liberty—the most natural and yet so difficult to attain in times of
tyranny—is the responsibility of every free man and woman who wishes to
favor my people, who deserve not to wait any longer to be treated like
real citizens, with or without whatever diplomatic decisions are taken
one thousand miles away in the U.S.
“Cubans have the right to have rights,” repeated Oswaldo Payá before the
Castros took his life. And we Cubans have the right to have rights
irrespective of all the Castros’ conspiracies to permanently prevail. I
still skeptically trust in such a Cuba “founded with all and the good of
all”—as the patriot and poet José Martí wrote more than a century
ago—but most of my fellow Cubans already don’t. Our wisdom is weird, for
we have seen things that you Americans wouldn’t believe
1. Fidel Castro. Speech at the Meeting of the Federation of Cuban Women,
2. Castro. Playboy (January 1967).
3. Castro. Speech at the Plaza de la Revolución, Havana (January 2, 1969).
4. Castro. Speech at the First Congress of the Cuban Communist Party,
5. Jeffrey M. Elliot and Mervyn M. Dymally. Fidel Castro: Nothing Can
Stop the Course of History (Pathfinder Press, 1986).
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo is a writer, photographer, blogger of “Lunes de
Post-Revolución”(English trans. “Post-Revolution Mondays”), and editor
of the Cuban independent digital magazines The Revolution Evening Post
Source: No Embargo, No Cry | The Mantle –