Lifting the Prohibitions
By Manuel Yepe*
A CubaNews translation by Ana Portela
Edited by Walter Lippmann
If the Western press had paid as much attention to the changes occurring in Cuba since 1959 to date as they are about the current changes, readers around the world – and in particular, those from the United States – would understand the characteristics of the Cuban revolution and understand what is happening.
That was the private opinion of a foreign journalist who is enjoying himself referring to the current changes in Cuba which he would not have had space for in his paper previously.
The current surge of information on changes in Cuba seems the result of a combination of factors.
In the first place, there are the intentions of the mass media against the Cuban revolution – which originate in Washington and has lasted almost half a century. It tries to exploit in its favor the assumption to the Cuban presidency by Raul Castro in place of the historical leader of the revolution, Fidel Castro, to express certain alleged errors in Cuba's revolutionary process which could lend some credibility to their discredited attacks in the future.
The Cuban revolution of today began in 1959. It has been characterized by a constant search for new forms and innovative mechanisms of social mobilization. The basic purpose of these is modeling a new type of society, one more human and just, in an independent and free homeland. During the duration of this development, the revolution has often had to correct its conduct to dodge enemy attacks or when it has not served strategic requirements, whatever the reason.
More than once, a process of correcting mistakes and incorrect tendencies as been conducted. It has been done so in a completely natural manner, as a revolutionary feature, if it is a real one.
Jose Marti, was Cuba's national hero and the main organizer of the independence struggles of the Cubans against the Spanish colonial empire during its most crucial moments. Marti defended the idea that “Politics is the art of inventing a resource for each new resource of the enemy and turning those setbacks into a future; of adapting to the present moment avoiding that the adaptation is a sacrifice, or the whittling down of the ideal followed; of not stepping back to take impulse; of falling on the enemy before it has its armies in order or its battle prepared”. Cuban revolutionaries of today, beginning with Fidel and Raul Castro are proud of being followers of Marti and putting of his ideas into practice. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the European socialist countries, Cuba's confronted the crisis of the 90s the strategy of a “special period”. This led to the introduction of a number of policies which significantly altered many factors of its development strategy. The abrupt collapse of foreign exchange with what had been certain trade partners in East Europe compelled the revolution's leadership to introduce solutions it would not have previously under different circumstances.
Foreign tourism, which was seen as an important source of income only after sufficient advances in other sectors, and which required confronting with greater security the social dangers involved with that “smokeless industry”, had to be speeded-up to obtain convertible currency in the short term.
Capital investment which barely stimulated were inevitable or highly convenient and certain, was promoted more actively for the same reasons. To alleviate the hard currency deficit it became necessary to boost income to the country through remittances by Cubans abroad to their families on the Island. For this reason, special stores were opened to sell merchandise in convertible currency which was not included among the state-subsidized articles guaranteed to the population through rationing. This systematic distribution guaranteed that basic foods for survival could be maintained through sales in the shops selling in convertible currency.
It was clear to the revolution's leadership that relying on these market solutions as emergency mechanisms to obtain the necessary capital for survival led to serious risks in terms of their political and social costs.
It was obvious that these would lead to the introduction of unprecedented income differences in the population. These had to be confronted with measures which would become unpopular and which would require later rectification or adjustment. But there was no other choice. The prohibition of access by Cubans to foreign tourist hotels, the limitations on Cubans on having cell phones and others which have recently been lifted – as well as some that are still in effect – have been guided by the goal of reducing the impact that these privileges had in a society based on equality and solidarity, in moments of serious danger for the nation.
The temporary suspension of the free sale of certain imported electrical appliances flowed from the need, first of all, to create the electrical energy required for their use.
When the moment arrived for removing or rectifying any of these regulations, they are changed with no further ado except for those that affect the security of the nation or the welfare of the Cuban people. All the world press information on the changes in Cuba is welcome. As is well-known, revolution is synonymous with change and the Cuban revolutionary process will undoubtedly continue producing constant changes as it has done since 1959 without ever losing direction.
*Manuel E. Yepe Menendez is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana, Cuba.