The Cuban society is advancing rapidly towards a crisis of incalculable magnitude. A genuine cataclysm looms on the immediate horizon. It is not more of the same. It is not a “special period” like the 90’s post-Soviet crisis. That one was approaching before the coronavirus. This time around, the system as it has been known is facing an existential crisis.
Historians and analysts often use the concept of “black swan” when a new, unexpected and influential factor appears on the scene. Something whose emergence was always “possible”, but too “improbable” as to make predictions based on such eventuality. Havana has been impacted by two black swans in less than four years: the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States, and the novel coronavirus pandemic. They could also represent two horsemen of the Apocalypse who apparently are being joined by a third one: the combination of a national energy collapse and widespread famine.
The coronavirus has come to accelerate the decline and fall of the crown tenets of the Castro clan. But the end of the regime as we know it does not automatically mean that the best wishes for democracy, freedom and prosperity will materialize in the short term. The probable immediate result of that lethal combination points to different paths, not necessarily democratic.
One ─ironically the most conservative─ would be a radical transformation of the economic governance system, or regime, pushed from above by a sector of the civil and military bureaucracy not directly involved in the mafia economy. Their probable option would be to avoid a general collapse by lifting the internal blockade on the private economy and the market. Eventually, these economic measures could be matched with other policies that might seem democratic, but would nonetheless be restrictive.
Another outcome ─the most radical one─ could be pushed from below by different groups of Cuba’s society, culminating in the collapse of the system, along with the fall of the current government.
But as long as the gerontocracy keeps trying to prolong its power, almost the entire population will stay poor or destitute, since not even the possession of hard currency would ensure access to essential food staples and other basic means of subsistence. Without fuel, basic transportation, water supply and other public services will become paralyzed, which will make Cuba’s urban landscape look like medieval citadels.
Needless to say that countless combinations could emerge among these possible solutions to the crisis. Other circumstances may also materialize in which external forces would participate. That seemed like another improbable black swan until very recently, but it has become increasingly feasible in the current context of collusion of the power elites of Venezuela and Cuba in criminal activities.
The only alternative with little or no potential to materialize is the one pursued these days by Cuba’s power elite, which is using its influence, propaganda and disinformation apparatus to get the Trump administration to lift sanctions against the Cuban government. The offer they want to coerce today, still giving nothing in return, is exactly the one that Fidel and Raúl Castro led to fail when they were offered olive branches by the US Administrations of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Castro’s responses were Cuba’s interventions in the civil wars of Angola, Ethiopia and Central America, the Mariel exodus, the shootdown of the Brothers to the Rescue planes, and the creation of Cubazuela, the first transnational mafia and terrorist State in the Western Hemisphere.
Those who let themselves be seduced by this “humanitarian” siren song about the commercial blockade that a foreign country has imposed, must first go to the Plaza de la Revolución to demand that they lift the internal blockade upon the citizens’ economy.
On the other hand, it seems pertinent to point out that the circumstances of the current crisis are totally different. The population is not only enduring hardship but also endangering their lives, even if they avoid “getting into politics”. Emigration is not an option, but they can access information through their three-million-plus cell phones. The historic leader is dead and his brother has turned the inherited disaster into a genuine catastrophe. The finger-chosen dauphins are a herd of incompetent and mediocre individuals with limited power and no historical or democratic legitimacy. The social contract of totalitarianism ─bankrolling public health and education services in return for submission to the suppression of political and civil rights─ has crumbled.
Now add to this scenario the current pandemic with collapsed transportation, water, health and sanitation services, insufficient supply of food and medicines, and a broke funeral system. Scary.
The problem of Cuba is a matter that we Cubans must solve. Yet the fact of the matter ─as the history of these sixty years has shown─- lies in the mafia elite of callous and incompetent power grabbers entrenched in Havana. Not in the incumbent US president living in the White House.