2024 – Bloodless Cuba | The duty

Since the death of Fidel Castro in November 2016, Cuba has not often made the news. Should we conclude that by losing its protective but controversial figure, the country has finally found some kind of reconciliation, 65 years after its revolution?

This is far from the case, if we are to believe Québec journalist and writer Hector Lemieux, who has lived between Havana and Quebec for twenty years and writes reports about Cuba for French newspapers. , Belgian and Swiss.

Lemieux has been writing since 1959 Cuba in transparency (Summary, 2024, 144 pages), the country has often struggled, “but the current situation is catastrophic: food rationed to the limit, triple-digit inflation, shortages of gasoline, medicines, mass exodus of life forces.” In 2021, Cubans with “empty bellies” could no longer hold on and expressed their despair at the regime, now led by Miguel Díaz-Canel, who suppressed discontent with violence.

Cuba has long captivated leftists, who saw it as a socialist paradise and who dreamed of taking on Uncle Sam, and enraged rightists, who saw it as yet another red dictatorship. Today, Lemieux writes, “neither situation corresponds to the truth” and “Cuba is a country in transition” whose evolution cannot be predicted.

As a good field journalist, Lemieux does not sign an analytical essay here, but a collection of short reports in which he “gives a voice to the Cubans, these formidable storytellers”, who have been condemned to their fate by the national crisis.

Quebecers sunbathing on the island’s beaches may not know it, but Cuba is dying. “Everyone is leaving, except the elderly and the poor,” the journalist notes. By 2022, 500,000 people are expected to have left for the United States, Spain or Latin American countries. Cuba has approximately 11 million inhabitants. At this rate, the country will become empty in the medium term.

Did the revolutionary spirit that fueled the islanders’ resilience die at the same time as Fidel? First, you should know that in 2016, 80% of Cubans were born after the revolution. The latter have therefore not experienced the colonial contempt of pre-1959, but have faced deprivations of freedom, of essential goods and, perhaps worse, of hope since birth.

For thirty years, Cuba “chose an artificial socialist state economy, subsidized by the former Soviet Union,” which allowed the country to survive honorably. The fall of the Soviet Union’s big brother led to the collapse of the Cuban economy. Since then, the country has lived on tourism, on the money brought in by medical staff and sent abroad, and on the money that Cubans in the diaspora send to their loved ones who remain on the island.

However, Cuba, especially since the pandemic that has severely hit the tourism sector, is no longer solvent. However, he must import “between 70% and 80% of his food needs.” The Cubans therefore come around and wait to leave, for those who can.

Lemieux evokes the small misery of everyday life. In 2014 there was a condom shortage; in 2018 it is the turn of sanitary towels to be in short supply; Power outages can always occur. In order to eat, the workers steal everything they can from the companies where they work and sell everything on the black market. Because public contestation of the situation usually leads to prison sentences, we remain silent and proceed in secret.

Raúl Castro, who headed the country from 2008 to 2021, liberalized the economy a bit, but due to a lack of resources, Cubans cannot benefit from this. For example, in 2014 the scheme made the previously prohibited purchase of new cars possible. On the island, due to inflation and government-imposed import taxes, a 2013 Peugeot 4008 sells for $325,000 and a used 2010 Volkswagen Jetta sells for $69,000, while the monthly salary is $27! We can guess the result: in six months only 50 cars and 4 motorcycles will have been sold.

In 2012-2013, the beginning of rapprochement between Obama’s United States and Fidel’s brother’s Cuba, via Canada and the Vatican, gave rise to a certain hope. Unfortunately, this emergency exit was doubly closed when Donald Trump came to power, who increased sanctions against Cuba, followed by Joe Biden.

“Washington,” Lemieux writes, “is keeping the island in poverty and increasing pressure on the regime to encourage the population to revolt.” » Meanwhile, Cubans are suffering and the regime is moving closer to China and Russia to survive. There are history lessons that are lost.

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