“El periódico ha de estar siempre como los correos antiguos, con el caballo enjaezado, la fusta en la mano y la espuela en el tacón.  Debe desobedecer los apetitos del bien personal y atender imparcialmente al bien público”.
José Martí

Cuba after Fidel: Saving Everything that Can Be Saved

Fidel Castro y Raul Castro

Fidel Castro’s death hasn’t changed anything or rather, to not be black and white, it has changed very little in the island´s situation. The Commander-in-Chief wanted to spend the last decade of his life as a “soldier of ideas”, who didn’t intervene – at least publicly – in national matters.

During the early years of Raul Castro’s government, Fidel´s support was key in being able to launch the reforms process and to consolidate a new leadership to oversee this process, thereby also ensuring, a generational change, which would be essential for when all of the “historic” revolutionary figures disappear.

However, the General-President has already established himself in the seat of power and in just over a year, he’ll hand over the government to younger leaders. Vice-President Miguel Diaz Canel, who was born a year after Fidel and his bearded men triumphed with the Revolution, is the next in line to lead them.

Once the tears of Fidel’s followers dry and the drunken hang-over of his enemies passes by, Cuba will return to exactly where it was on Friday November 25th. With the same strengths and weaknesses, with the same wise decisions and mistakes.

Millones de personas en Cuba rindieron homenaje al líder desaparecido pero pasado el duelo tendrán que seguir buscando soluciones a los retos que enfrenta la nación. Foto: Raquel Pérez Díaz

Millions of people paid tribute to their leader who passed away. However, after their mourning, they will have to continue to look for solutions to the challenges that the country faces. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

The challenges that face Cubans right now are huge. The country is crossing a river, with the certainty that where they were they were unable to find prosperity but unsure of just how to cross the current or what they will find on the other shore.

The government hopes to be able to build a system which is politically socialist, economically thriving and ecologically sustainable. The task at hand would be gigantic for any country but is all that much more for a small island with few natural resources and under siege by the world’s greatest superpower.

To make matters worse, it has inherited a slow, inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy that stumbles along when any changes are made to try and sort out the national economy. The bureaucracy prefers to keep the river rough because that’s where they can fish out their privileges.

However, Cuba has also inherited its main strength from this previous system, a large reserve of human resources. Millions of caring people, professionally well-trained, with great natural talent and an ingenuity that will let them pass through the eye of a needle.

Fidel y sus barbudos legan a Cuba una salud pública universal, educación al alcance de todos, enorme desarrollo cultural y sorprendente en los deportes. Foto: Raquel Pérez Díaz

Fidel and his bearded men are passing on a country with universal healthcare, education for all, a great and surprising development in culture and sports. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

If they were given greater freedom to act, instead of having their hands tied together, workers in public sector companies would be able to shake off the bureaucrats and would become much more efficient, while the number of self-employed workers would increase and economic prosperity would be within people’s reach because of their work.

However, as long as the country crosses this river with its famous sluggishness, Cuba is losing a part of its greatest treasure. Thousands of young people, who are well-educated and want to work, allow themselves to be taken by the migratory current and will end up creating wealth for other countries.

Some people say that this is a brain drain but it seems more like an organ donation. And the worst thing is that along with this grey matter that the country is losing, the fertile orgasms of eggs and sperm that Cuba needs to not die off with an aging population are also being lost.

And it will be difficult for young people to settle down and establish themselves when they aren’t given space to participate and make decisions, beyond the formal approval process of policies drawn up by others. Cuba needs all of its “intelligence” to speed up this journey and to conceive a system that can be built.

The challenge that the country is facing is so large that it needs to open up spaces so that every Cuban who has a desire to work, can find a place. Where, inevitably, in search of their own prosperity, they will contribute to national prosperity, like Jose Marti once suggested.

Fidel and his bearded men are passing on a country with universal healthcare, education for all, a great and surprising development in culture and sports. However, they didn’t know how or were unable to build an efficient productive system to finance these achievements.

The country´s greatest challenge is to build a competent economy to sustain these social benefits. Otherwise, everything that has been achieved will slip through our fingers like sand, until one morning we will wake up and see that we have lost everything, that our hands are empty.

This long march towards the “promised land” can’t end nor should it end like this, the children and grandchildren of Cuba don’t deserve this, as well as those who are yet to be born, the descendants of Cubans who sacrificed everything because of their faith in being able to build a better future.

Las generaciones futuras de Cuba merecen que se les legue una economía capaz de sostener las conquistas sociales. Foto: Raquel Pérez Díaz

Cuba´s future generations deserve to inherit an economy which is capable of sustaining the nation´s social breakthroughs. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

Translation: Havana Times

About Fernando Ravsberg

Nacido en Uruguay, corresponsal de Público en Cuba y profesor del post grado de “Información internacional y países del Sur” de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Fue periodista de BBC Mundo, Telemundo de EEUU, Radio Nacional de Suecia y TV Azteca de México. Autor de 3 libros, El Rompecabezas Cubano, Reportajes de Guerra y Retratos.


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