Is Diaz-Canel the politician we need?

By Repatriado

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” JFK (I completely disagree)

MIguel Diaz Canel, the new Cuban president. Photo: granma.cu

HAVANA TIMES —Will Diaz Canel be another great waste of time like Raul Castro? Will he perhaps be an Adolfo Suarez or a Joaquin Balaguer? Suarez led the transition from Franco to freedom in Spain and he democratically turned over power when the voting results demanded he do so. Balaguer did the same after the dictator Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, although he never left politics and perpetuated himself in power through questionable methods. This held back the DR from establishing a true democratic system.

Will a better Cuba start with Diaz Canel? While time makes this clear, I can either wish or flee. Eros or Thanatos.

Eros:

I wish for a radical politician who takes political analyses to the very end, concluding that democracy is our greatest need because we need democracy before urban transport, painted hospitals, dignified wages or productive farming, in order for all this to be sustainable.

I wish for a politician who cultivates freedom to knock down dogmas and to constantly replace ideas with better ones, who understands the process of building, deconstructing and reconstructing in an infinite, continuous and plural way.

I wish for a politician who leads small changes in a coherent manner, changing things gradually so that corrections can be made as they develop, who doesn’t demand huge social sacrifices, the awful sum of millions of sacrificed individuals for the sake of tomorrow’s society, sacrifices which even they aren’t willing to suffer a lot of the time.

I wish for a politician who is able to walk hand-in-hand with uncertainty. A centralized planned economy leads to political centralization as only a single concentrated, authoritarian and totalitarian power can react efficiently (and only for so long) to the infinity of diversions that social plurality impose on any attempt of closed planning.

I wish for a politician who plans so as to get his bearings, as a tool not an objective, who is open to changing his plans in view of how individual initiatives emerge in realty, not standing in their way so that it suits their fancies, no matter how scientific they want to be, because this will always fail, even if they try it for 60 years or more.

I wish for a politician who seeks consensus, who exposes themselves to criticism, who boasts about their ability to take a step back and tolerate differences, who is an expert handling contradictions, being a prism where individual rays of light filter into a great beam of light, not a black hole which devours everything without a second thought.

Thanatos:

I run away from the arrogant revolutionary and his “great idea” about how we should be, wanting us to adjust to their preconceived fantasies via cloudy theories which never resemble society’s great diversity and has more mysticism than science, more faith than reason.

I run away from those who want to change everything, immediately and definitively, using a great state machinery that joins individuals together into a shapeless mass, an excessive ego which makes him think that he is history’s architect, the driver of peoples, visionary or shaman.

I run away from those who don’t want or demand critique, they crush it just like they trample on reason, their personality creates a gravitational force which crushes any kind of creative thought, dissidence, thereby being out of touch with this distant reality.

I run away from those who promise paradises, abstract goals which only they can envisage, the Lenins and Fidels who have imposed dictatorships based on collective hypnosis, induced by the shiny pendulum watch of an abstract illusion which only shines in their demagogic invocations.

I run away from those who put off results and enthrone the means as such, not defending their revolution’s objectives as this is the only place where they justify their existence.

Many times, great transitioning moments in history have depended on the character or the stamp of the leader of the hour, so whether we want him or not, Diaz-Canel is the person who embodies this leader right now and our present and future depend on him a great deal.

Even though I don’t know how to be optimistic right now, I am clinging onto thinking logically and I tell myself that the fact that Diaz-Canel was imposed on us doesn’t exactly mean that he can’t still surprise us, so I’m crossing my fingers for the Cuba I wish for, which might resemble the Cuba you wish for too.

21 thoughts on “Is Diaz-Canel the politician we need?

  • This is one of those times where I hope I am wrong but Diaz-Canel appears to be no more than a Raul clone to me.

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    • More than a clone, he is like a Mini-me jejeje

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  • When Raul Castro Ruz arbitrarily decided five years ago that Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez would be appointed President when he had completed his own self appointed ten years, he clarified that he did so because Diaz-Canel had like Raul himself, been a faithful hard-core supporter of the Stalinist form of communism and worked hard in support of it for over thirty years. The chances of any significant form of change are zero as Diaz-Canel’s mind wallows in the morass of Marxist/Leninist thinking.
    Repatriado is correct when he as a Cuban resident in Cuba says:
    “the fact that Diaz-Canel was imposed upon us”
    Such is communist dictatorship under which the proletariat ought not to question but to comply.
    “Our’s is not to question why, Our’s is but to do or die!”

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    • I am not so sure Raul’s selection of Diaz-Canel was arbitrary as it appears you have defined arbitrary. I think Diaz-Canel represented someone young enough to rule 30 years once in power yet old enough to have been a good communist for 30 years before taking power. He was not from Havana so his power base was not corrupted by Havana politics. He is white. He is soft-spoken. Not likely to outshine Raul’s lack of eloquence. And finally, a man of simple tastes. Not likely to fall victim to the material trappings available to Cubans in power. I think Raul’s selection of Diaz-Canel was far from arbitrary.

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      • Moses, the arbitrary election of D-C is because he was appointed directly by Raul, but of course we all know that he was reasonably elected for some qualities that Raul was looking for the person that was to substitute him.

        I think you are wrong assuming that DC has some power base, his power base is only raul and the people close to him, with the same interest, the old guard, DC by himself, so far, is nothing, but that can change in the future if he wants to be more that a white-European young face.

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      • ‘He is white’?Goddamn?? So what?

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        • Mikki, I have a couple of suggestions to enable you to comprehend why repatriado made his comment about a “white-European”.
          Cuba has a particularly hideous record of racism.
          Firstly, the current official regime statistic for blacks in Cuba is 9.9%. That figure is used to limit the opportunities for blacks to hold positions of authority – managerial etc. If you have been to Cuba, do you believe that only 9.9% of the population are black?
          Secondly, as a possession of Catholic Spain, slaves were imported to do the hard physical work. However there was a repeated concern that the number of blacks did not exceed the number of white Catholics. That was first raised by the Marques de casa Penalver in 1796. He suggested:

          “maintaining equilibrium by limiting introduction of negroes and by importing whites.”

          He suggested from the Canary Islands and Indians from Vera Cruz.
          The agent of the municipality of Havana said:

          “We tolerate and always have tolerated the entry of negro infidels, many of whom die infidels, but we cannot suffer the entry of white Catholics unless they be Spaniards.”

          In 1791, severe police regulations were introduced to prevent slave uprisings.
          In 1814, there was a plot by a free black Jose Antonio Aponte, to free slaves. The leaders were executed,
          In 1815, Spain introduced a policy of encouraging white immigrants:
          “Foreigners of the Catholic faith willing to take the oath of allegience to be allowed 4 and two seventh faregas (1.59 acres) for each member of the family and HALF AS MUCH FOR EACH SLAVE IMPORTED and exempt from tax for fifteen years.
          In 1817 Britain extracted a treaty from Spain for termination of the slave trade.
          Between 1818 and 1821, 56,000 slaves landed in Havana.
          In 1835, Britain extracted a second treaty.
          In 1835, spain adopted a policy of further promotion of white colonization.
          By 1843, Cuba had a population of 660,000 of whom 498,000 were slaves. There was a petition by 93 white planters to import more.
          In 1868, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes declared independence for Cuba having liberated the slaves on his family’s small estate one day earlier. That started a ten year war, with Cespedes being shot by the Spanish in 1874.
          Slavery eventually ended in Cuba in 1886 – the last country to do so.
          But, following the so-called Spanish American war of 1898, when Cubans had already been fighting for three years, a puppet Cuban Government was installed. It duly pursued the policies of importing and subsidizing white Spanish Catholic immigrants mainly from Galicia. The black Cubans were not offered anything, but because slaves were not available, indentured Chinese ‘coolies’ were imported.
          Fidel and Raul Castro’s father immigrated from Galicia and although married, had children by a servant woman including Fidel and Raul.
          The 1959 revolution was initially welcomed by the black population as at least the permuta provided food, but the racism continued with the State police and the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) complicit. I know because having my home in Cuba and having a black wife, we get stopped in the street by the State Police when in Havana.
          So I hope Mikki that you now understand repatriado’s comment!
          Incidentally, take a look at Cuba’s athletes and sports people and their colour!

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          • Well said.

  • History shows that nothing is predictable, except, perhaps, the steady growth in the forces of production, the real driver of human progress, according to Marx. (At least, they grow under the free market, which is what Marx was observing.)

    But human behavior in the political field … not so predictable. Who would have predicted that the sneaky, amoral, hardcore anti-Communist Richard Nixon would have upended thirty years of US policy and started the process which ended in US recognition of Communist China? Or that Mao’s successor would have upended twenty-five years of socialism and started China on its road to massive economic growth? Or that Mr Gorbachev, faithful lifelong Communist, would have peacefully withdrawn from Eastern Europe, and begun the process of dismantling Communist control of the Soviet Union? Or that the death of Franco would quickly result in the transition of fascist Spain to democratic Spain?

    So … don’t give up hope. Once we get an intelligent President in the US, who will treat Cuba as an ordinary country, all things will be possible.

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    • I am completely agree with your historic analyse.

      But I am not agree at all in that Cuba should be treated as an ordinary country, we have a dictatorship here, so we are far from ordinary, so Cuban government should be treated as a pariah, like international community is starting to do with Maduro in Venezuela.

      The problem is not the American policy against the Cuban government, the problem are the countries who recognize legitimacy to this undemocratic government we suffer here.

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    • So Doug 1943 you are convinced that the answer to Cuba’s problems lies in the US. The US would have to not only turn over a new leaf but reverse all previous ones, for its history in the America’s and specifically in Cuba is awful.
      Regarding prediction, my late father who was particularly well qualified to express a view upon communism, predicted that the USSR would not succumb to outside influences, but would “rot from within” like a barrel of rotten apples. It did!
      The world that Marx observed was very different from that of today. The supporters of Marx/Lenin pursue out-dated concepts.
      If the US gets an intelligent President following the current embarrassing incumbent, she or he will have to address remedies for problems within the US before meddling with others.

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  • China has changed dramatically since Richard Nixon’s visit in 1971 followed by recognition by the United States in 1977. America’s diplomatic and economic relationships with Viet-Nam have also significantly improved. The same can happen in Cuba before or after the last of the Castro brothers are gone.

    We need constant engagement with the Cuban people to increase their ability to make important changes gradually; they need positive and not negative feedback to strengthen their desire for change!

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    • China, Vietnam and even Russia have a different culture than Cuba, those eastern country have a communitarian mentality that we Cubans don’t, in psychology that is named “distance of power” and that varies a lot from a western culture to those eastern ones.

      Governments in those countries take advantages of that old mentality to maintain concentrated power, stopping the evolution to democracy.

      Other countries like South Korea or Japan has shown that eastern people are perfectly capable of living in democracy ones they knows it and have the peaceful option to keep it.

      Nevertheless, maybe without US recognition and no western recognition, dictatorships like those in Vietnam and China would be long gone. Did US recognize them for Chinese or Vietnamese people’s wellness? I thin US recognize them only for commercial interest because all politicians in US care more about Americans than Chinese and that is normally accepted, but is wrong, wrong because foreign policy should be more in the hand of the people in democratic countries, they should have the right to be informed about pro and against of recognition of one dictatorship government and do not let that in politicians hands.

      Democracy is far from perfect, but it is my opinion that is it by far the best option for peoples wellness, not for utopic principles.

      Agree that the rest of the world shoul press to engage directly with Cuban people, no Cuban government, there are some politics they could do.

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    • There are lots of Cubans with a very strong desire for change. As long as the Communist Party of Cuba adheres to it’s Stalinist type of communism, there will be no change. Raul Castro selected Diaz-Canel five years ago because he represented the same views as the Castro’s and has already said that he will ensure continuity not change.
      “Engagement with the Cuban people” has a nice ring to it, but you Hans Frankfort do not say who the “we” are to do that, or indicate how it could occur on a political level, Barack Obama’s overtures were rebuffed. Remember that seeking “change” within the Cuban system means disapproval of the current regimes policies and that criticism of those policies is a criminal offence. It’s called dissidence!

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  • An interesting comment Hans.
    Nixon’s visit to China had a lot of knock on effects.
    But do you not think that the primary objective at the time was for him to be re-elected as US President?
    Obviously this did not come to pass and we all know why not.
    One thing that did result was the unique and stunning soundtrack from the great US composer John Adams.
    I would not recommend any sudden changes in Cuba. History is littered with bloody catastrophes born of sudden changes.
    But I would totally agree with you that Cubans need to make gradual political and economic changes for the better. The US could either be positive and assist this (eg President Obama) or do the very opposite (eg the current incumbent of that big ol house on Pensylvania Ave)…….

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    • you can see I hate revolutions and those big changes, but the problem with little changes inside this system is that those changes can be reverted and will be reverted when ever the actual government want or understand that is needed to maintain its position.

      So I want the big change first, they go away or agree to change system by them self for some time, then we can follow with small changes looking for what suits us, but without Damocles sword in the neck.

      with that in mind I am nor in favor of any economic asitant to this government, they will use that help to keep their position and will distribute that help only under they terms.

      what they did with the enormous Soviet help?

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  • I see things happening in Cuba now in spite of the government. And, they have been happening in ways not visible to the casual observer for a number of years.

    Cuba’s major problems are economic. While the cause is political, the real problem is the economic situation. But more and more Cuban citizens income is becoming disconnected from the government. The Cuban government has not been gradually permitting forms of private business because they believed it was the right thing to do. Economic forces are causing this to happen while the government realizes they cannot stop it, so begin to slowly permit it to save face. Just look at the size of the “in the street” market economy. The Cuban government is in the early stages of becoming economically irrelevant for the production side.

    One tenth of Cuban households are receiving foreign remittances of some kind. Where is the allegiance of a Cuban who has a choice of working at a job that pays 500 CUP (US$20) a month or simply quitting while an overseas relative sends them $100 or more per month? Same situation for those who are entrepreneurs in the street economy rather than letting the government have the major portion of the value of their output. Realize the Cuban GDP (total economic output) is only $87 Billion while foreign remittances exceed $6 Billion. That is 7% or a huge part of the economy.

    There is decreasing economic motivation for citizens to contribute to the government coffers while the government payouts for free medical, free education, subsidized housing, utilities, and transportation remain fixed. One need not be much of an economist to realize that is just not going to survive long term.

    Low productivity since the Triumph of the Revolution has caused Cuba to rely on overseas factors for its economic survival. First the Soviet Union, then Venezuela contributing to the Cuban government. But that is changing to a model where foreign individuals, not governments, are contributing direct to Cuban citizens, not the Cuban government. The Cuban government is in the early, but continuing, stages of becoming economically irrelevant. That does not bode well for the Cuban government when the major problem is economic. It may not matter long term if Diez-Canal is the right guy or not when the other side has the economic law of supply and demand.

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    • It is an excellent comment, I subscribe it completely with only one exception, an important one, Cuban problem is first of all political, Cuban economy is centralized and planned by politicians serving first politicians needs and just later economic needs.

      As Carlyle always says, Cuban regime can be only beaten by their own incompetence, so far they have being very incompetent but very lucky finding a sponsor, but the last sponsor, Venezuela, is suffering exactly the same that us, the use of economy to satisfice politician’s needs.

      China won´t play that role and Putin´s Russia can´t.

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  • I hope that you are correct Bob. But Cuba has been repeatedly been able to find a sugar daddy. First as you point out, was the USSR, then Venezuela and now China with known debt exceeding $25 billion. Putin’s Russia even forgave a multi-billion dollar debt (no doubt knowing that Cuba under communism could never pay) whether China will be as benevolent remains to be seen. One of the not too subtle ways of rewarding the party faithful is the use of a car with their job, now inevitably Chinese Geely’s and other similar junk, all being on credit, increasing that debt. This keeps the party faithful near par with those receiving remittances. The unwritten question that you pose is how long is “long term”? Will the regime stagger on for ten, twenty or more years? There is virtually no chance of a civil insurrection, Cuba like the USSR has to rot internally!
    As you know, I am not a casual observer. I daily shop in that “in the street” market – that critical economic factor of the mercado negra and at the various TRD, Pan-Americana and Cimex stores. Dictators and totalitarian states do not forego their power by choice!

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    • Carlyle: I cannot see Cuba being able to find another sugardaddy long term. There is a mutual exclusivity between those countries willing to prop up Cuba out of sympathy for political ideology as the USSR and Venezuela did and those who have the long term economic power to do so. China’s motivation is improvement of its own economics and not to support Cuba’s. The downside of Communism is economic. Therefore anyone willing to support the Cuban government is suffering from the same economic problem they are trying to solve.

      While the Cuban government can keep a handful of supporters economically comfortable, it simply is of no match for the economic support provided direct to Cuban citizens by the involved populous of the US, Europe, and Canada.

      I agree the key question is the time frame. I think we all acknowledge there is a real difference between those of us who comfortably sit at our PC’s discussing ultimate results and the Cuban with a small amount of pesos in hand looking at prices today while wondering if their situation will improve next month, next year, or the next generation. I am deriving comfort from the fact that those things we are doing today (i.e. remittances) to relieve current problems will also promote long term benefits. Conversely, the Cuban government faces decisions to sacrifice long term just to be able to survive short term.

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      • I agree with you Bob that China only acts in its own interests. Hence my comment “whether China will be as benevolent remains to be seen. Certainly it is extremely doubtful whether China will ever get its money back.
        If the cash flow from China drys up, the PCC/Castro successor regime may well impose another “special period”, but it is doubtful whether the populace would as easily accept it the second time around.

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