Goliath Opens His Wallet
Goliath Opens His Wallet / Yoani Sánchez: A New Era for Cuba and the
Posted on December 18, 2014
[From the New York Times] HAVANA — In one of my earliest memories, I am
in a schoolyard before a campfire. The kids are screaming and jumping
around it while the teacher stokes the flames, where a ridiculous Uncle
Sam puppet is burning. This image came to mind on Wednesday, as I
listened to the speeches of Raúl Castro and Barack Obama about the
re-establishment of relations between Cuba and the United States.
Generations of Cubans have grown up under the barrage of official
propaganda against the United States. As the words directed against our
neighbor to the north became more aggressive, our curiosity only grew.
Overwhelmed by material precariousness, disillusioned because the
so-called Raúl reforms have failed to fill their wallets or their
plates, Cubans now dream of the material respite that might arrive from
the other side of the Florida Straits. Without a fight, David, smiling,
walks toward Goliath, who is about to open his bag of coins. The myth of
the enemy is over; the difficult reality of coexistence has begun.
Sara is a teacher I know at an elementary school in the Plaza of the
Revolution municipality. Without the help sent by her daughter every
month she couldn’t survive. “Now everything will be easier, especially
because we’ll be able to use American credit and debit cards here and my
daughter is thinking of sending me one so I can get a little help
whenever I need it,” she said.
Sara has decorated her classroom with a poster that includes images of
the “Cuban Five,” spies whom the official propaganda considers heroes.
(The Americans released the last three of them as part of a swap for a
Cuban who had worked as an agent for American intelligence.) “They are
back, so we will have to change the bulletin board,” she said with
excitement and relief.
Bonifacio Crespo helps a brother with accounting for their private
restaurant in Havana. They already have a new business plan. “We have
the contacts to start importing raw materials, spices and many products
for the menu, all we need is for them to expand the sending of packages
from over there,” he said, his finger pointing toward a cardinal point
he believed was north.
José Daniel Ferrer, a dissident, said that Havana had lost its “alibi”
for political repression and economic control, and the independent
magazine Convivencia (Coexistence) welcomed the news, but other
dissidents worry that the government has yet to specify what it will do.
The tension between the two governments lasted so long that now some
people don’t know what to do with their slogans, their fists raised
against imperialism and their sick tendency to justify everything, from
droughts to repression, on the grounds of being so close to “the most
powerful country in the world.” The worst off are the most recalcitrant
members of the Communist Party, those who would die before chewing a
stick of gum, drinking a Coke or setting foot in Disney World. The first
secretary of their organization just betrayed them. He made a pact with
the adversary, behind the scenes and over 18 long months.
On Thursday, the party newspaper, Granma, was slow to reach the
newsstands. Sometimes it is delayed when Fidel Castro publishes one of
his delirious articles about the immensity of the galaxy or the memory
of Hugo Chávez. In the long minutes of waiting, many speculated that
Granma would arrive with some reflection from the comandante, but there
was nothing. No evidence that would let us know whether he is for or
against the risky step just taken by his brother. Many have read this
silence as a sign of his delicate state of health, but by saying
nothing, he has confirmed his political death, which is even more
revealing and symbolic than his physical death will be.
Representatives of civil society do not want the United States to
“extend a blank check” to the longest-standing totalitarian regime in
the Western Hemisphere unless four demands are met.
First is the immediate release of political prisoners — there are over
100, Elizardo Sánchez of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and
National Reconciliation estimates. Second is the ratification of United
Nations human rights covenants. Third is the dismantling of the
apparatus of repression: shameful assaults on so-called
counterrevolutionaries, arbitrary arrests, demonization and intimidation
of those who think differently and police surveillance of activists.
Finally, the Cuban government must accept the existence of civic
structures that have the right to express opinions, decide, question and
choose — voices that have not been represented in the current
negotiations between the governments of Cuba and the United States. The
road map drawn by the higher-ups has been hidden from us.
An opportunity has been offered, despite the valid criticisms of many
who question whether Uncle Sam has conceded too much, while his
counterpart was too stingy to offer meaningful political gestures. Civil
society must take advantage of it, elevate its voice, test the new
limits of repression and censorship.
Everyone is experiencing this change in his or her own way: Sara,
dreaming of her new debit card; Bonifacio, who speculates about the
dishes he’ll be able to include on his menu with new imported
ingredients; José Daniel Ferrer, who hopes to increase activism in the
eastern part of the country. For everyone, a new era has begun. We
cannot confirm that it will be better, but at least it will be different.
Yoani Sánchez, a blogger, is the director of 14ymedio, an independent
digital news outlet in Cuba. This essay was translated by Mary Jo Porter
from the Spanish.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on December 19, 2014, on page
A35 of the New York edition of the New York Times with the headline:
Goliath Opens His Wallet.
Source: Goliath Opens His Wallet / Yoani Sánchez: A New Era for Cuba and
the United States | Translating Cuba –