June­–July 2015        

Letter from Havana

Seán Joseph Clancy

There is an upsurge in the number of particularly European tourists coming to experience Cuba “before McDonalds and Starbucks arrive,” or “before Fidel dies.”
     Things on the ground here are really quite different. The political, economic and social adjustments under way here are not rooted in the appeasement of our neighbour to the north, nor are they preparations for a transition from revolutionary socialism. They are timely and necessary reforms of a system traumatised by an “economic Chernobyl,” caused by the collapse of the socialist bloc.
     The impression that there is even a minority worthy of note that opposes the established system of order here is a false one, created by the United States to justify illegal “regime change” plans, that generally fail so spectacularly that they in part have backed the White House into a corner in the region, the only way out of which was with their present moves to mend fences, unilaterally broken more than half a century ago.
     If Cuba is not changing the socialist, altruistic, solidarity-based and ethically sound principles on which a revolutionary society is in the process of being constructed—admittedly at times by trial and error—it is very important never to forget that the perverse nature of the American beast is changing even less. The new style of interactions are simply that—stylistic, rather than substantial changes.
     The goal of the United States is still the recovery of a piece of the Latin American “back yard”—the loss of which still bitterly stings—and its return to a fold within which everything destructive, corrupt, greed-centred and wrong about rampantly brutal neo-liberal monopoly capitalism is celebrated and adored.
     Shifts in the internal, regional and global order have made life somewhat easier in Cuba over the past seven years. What for many complex reasons—the still fully imposed genocidal financial, economic and commercial blockade being primary—was a dysfunctional and logic-bereft economy on so many levels is beginning to return to something that resembles sanity . . .
     The pace of change is dictated by the pragmatism of President Raúl Castro, with due regard to the social realities here, rather than howling ideologue hounds from Washington, hot on a false-positive Perestroika trail.
     Those rushing to come to the Caribbean isle before Cuba loses its revolutionary, sovereign, socialist identity can breathe a sigh of relief. Such unwelcome change is not upon us quite yet.

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