'Yes, we do need the empire, or aliens, to give us everything'
The article by Fidel Castro published Monday by state media, entitled "Brother Obama," has sparked strong criticism in the streets of Havana.
The text, in which "the historic leader of the revolution" – as the regime likes to call him – rejected the open hand extended by US President Barack Obama in his speech at the Gran Teatro de La Habana, was seen as a warning, dampening the hopes of civil society and the diaspora. "We are able to produce the food and material wealth we need through the effort and intelligence of our people. We don't need the empire to give us anything," Castro snapped.
"You've got to have some nerve to spout such nonsense. We don't even have enough here to produce tampons," said Madelin Reygada, a worker at a construction company.
"I guess the intelligence he's referring to is the kind that Cuban women need to have to put food on the table on what a worker makes and the paltry amount of food guaranteed by the State. And the effort it takes to educate and raise our children in a country with such social inequality that we're forced to steal from the Government itself," said Magdalena Arencibia, who works for a printing company.
"What retirement and what salary is Fidel talking about? That of the teachers they expelled from the education system for offering private tutoring? Mine? 350 pesos [about 14 CUC], after 25 years as a professor at the University of Havana?" asked retiree Elena Calero, referring to another part of Castro's text.
"I don't think Fidel knows what kind of country he's living in. In Cuba, nothing works. In fact, there are three Cubas: the one they live in, the one on the news, and the one we live in," complained Natalia Falcon, an assistant teacher. "Yes, we do need the empire, or aliens, to give us everything. They [the Government] may not, but the Cuban people do."
Both the article by Fidel Castro and statements by officials with the regime demonstrate that the ruling elite prefers to cling to the economic embargo and, with it, confrontation with "imperialism," indicated several people when asked.
"The government needs the embargo to justify its own failure. The poor state of the transport system is historic. It's as old as the revolution," said Nelson Martín, a driver for a tourism company.
"Havana is falling apart, while, in contrast, the private sector businesses that aggravate the social inequality afflicting the country flourish. It is obvious that part of this set of businesses is a cover for fortunes amassed by the military elite," said Maikel Pozo.
"Neighborhood after neighborhood, they’re falling down,” every time there is a rainstorm. “There are people in those places that have been living under subhuman conditions for 15 or 20 years," said Aleida Gordillo, a resident of the Juanelo quarter, referring to the dilapidated state of the housing on the island, in need of urgent and large-scale investments.
"I was told that Cardinal Jaime Ortega spoke of forgiveness and not forgetting history. Well, I think that the cardinal is right, and Fidel has to apologize to the people for every Cuban boat person who has perished in the Straits of Florida," said H. Crespo. "He has to apologize to the families of the three people shot in April, 2003. He has to apologize for every Cuban who has been a victim of repression. He has to apologize to every child who no longer gets any more compote when they turn 3, or milk when they turn 7. And he has to apologize to 11 million Cubans who are prisoners of silence."
The independent journalist Lucía Corrales finds it "an outrage" that in his article Fidel Castro referred to Antonio Maceo as "the black leader," and later reproaches Obama for not mentioning "that racial discrimination was swept away by the Revolution."
"This regime should bite its tongue on certain issues. Absolute silence. Its fear is evident, as it has never had its enemy so close, right in its living room, as it were. It was immoral and cynical. Not his warning, but his threat that "we are able to produce food and material wealth." In a country where you cannot even bury your loved ones with any dignity. The cemeteries and funeral homes provide tangible evidence of the total collapse," he said.
A leader of the municipal CTC (worker’s union) in Cerro, who requested anonymity, said "that article by Fidel was out of line. What the hell are we going to export to produce food and material wealth: Flowers? Cheese? Sicklebush? Suppose we get to that point. Who will benefit from these foods and riches? I imagine it will be their children, nephews and grandchildren. The ones who vacation in Turkey and Greece."