Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Cuba - Freedom

"Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it. They may be distressed in the midst of all their power; but they will never look to anything but power for their relief."
- Edmund Burke

A lot has been said about the political system in Cuba and the lack of basic freedoms for many Cubans so I wanted to give my brief observations on the topic.

One of the first things one notices in Cuba is the prominence placed on Che Guevara as a national hero. Visting the monument to Che in Santa Clara they pipe the song "Hasta Siempre, Comandante" out around the site. In Cuba you do not see any statues or monuments to Fidel. Despite being effectively a dictator he does not seem to share the same bizarre egotism as say Saparmurat Niyazov. Che is however celebrated everywhere.

Guevara therefore is used by the regime as a kind of talisman alongside selected works of Jose Marti to reinforce the propagandised view of the Cuban state as being the ultimate expression of a great impulse for freedom and equality. Driving along the roads one never sees the find of advertising billboards that blight the rural landscapes of America. Rather one finds the odd ‘Socialism’ mural depicting soviet style art of workers in fields with slogans like “Defendiendo Socialismo.”

What struck me most about Cuba was the irony of the revolution. Perhaps at the time it was really necessary to topple Batista and deliver the Cubans from foreign control and Castro really did want to provide a better system for the people. In some ways Castro succeeded given the strong healthcare and educational system. However the irony is that Cuba under Castro has ended up just as vulnerable to outside influence as it always was first the Soviets and since 1994 international tourists. As a tourist you have more rights in Cuba than as a Cuban. The double currency further exacerbates the gulf between tourists and those who work with them and all other Cubans. Either way Cuba is so detached for the wider world now it needs to liberalise slowly rather than all at once. Ordinary people have built their lives around this system and to bin it suddenly and completely would be a disaster for them.

Cuba feels like a place that isn’t being allowed to move on and evolve from its revolution. It’s as if the revolution was Castro’s one defining moment and he lives forever in 1959 cracking down on any counterrevolutionary movements which want to continue the process of societal evolution.

For a country of ironies I’ll quote its leader;

"I think that a man should not live beyond the age when he begins to deteriorate, when the flame that lighted the brightest moment of his life has weakened."
- Fidel Castro, 1953

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