A Government-spread rumor attempts to denigrate Cubans who believe in prosperity
"Obama's children." This is what some are surreptitiously branding the participants in the Cuba Emprende project, an initiative backed by the Archbishopric of Havana at the Centro Cultural Padre Félix Varela, which provides business training and guidance to those who have decided to start a business on their own.
Evidently, "contributing to the development of economic acumen, social progress and improved quality of life" is an objective diametrically opposed to the concept of austerity that we have been beaten over the head with for decades, while poverty spread and private property was demonized.
The derisive label reflects a backlash to Obama's meeting with private sector representatives at the Fábrica del Arte (Art Factory), in that fleeting air of freedom that lasted only for the few hours that the US president remained on the island.
Fidel's reflection, published in the newspaper Granma, was the beginning of a counteroffensive to relegate the whole experience to a footnote, followed by a media onslaught and also, of course, the recently concluded VII Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, the only one authorized to chart the country's political and economic course.
With a massive image of Fidel looming over the event, the subject of the private sector was inevitable, one of the most scandalous of contradictions, as the regime still encourages the repudiation of independent journalists and opposition activists, and scorns payments from "the enemy" and purported accumulations of wealth.
How is it possible to reconcile these contradictions and to render coherent the monstrosity that they insist, at all costs, on calling "socialism?" How is it possible to combine prosperity with an indoctrinated penalization of capital, corporate independence with the centralization of power, and reconciliation with hatred fanned for more than half a century?
While common sense silently makes inroads on the island, the snake charmers are refusing to back down, and spending exorbitant amounts on a desperate ideological campaign, warning Cubans against the demon of neoliberalism. Once again confusion and discord are being sown by the seat of power, where the real needs of the people never were (or are) mentioned.
Faithful to the concept that things are not what they are, but what they are called, at the Seventh Congress there was talk about the expansion of self-employment, and the hiring of employees by private entities, which has resulted in the creation of SMBs on the island – though it was always stressed that this "does not mean a return to capitalism."
However, ever since the reform under this "updated socialism" plan began, since the old justification for the "blockade" was put down to the irresponsibility of the people, as it was argued that wages could not be increased until production rose; ever since "unnecessary free benefits" were eliminated, the country's leadership has begun to pepper its rhetoric with more contemporary adjectives: "prosperous and sustainable socialism," as if this clarification did not entail any admission of the economic catastrophe the Marxist dream has meant for us.
When Cubans who were sick and tired of promises and delays congregated at the Embassy of Peru in April 1980, publicly admitting that they wanted to abandon the country, Fidel called them "scum, the dregs, worms," and they were lumped with convicts and schizophrenics so that the Government could evade its responsibility, and to corrupt the American people.
"Obama's children" is a less deprecating label, but one which, once again, seeks to shirk all responsibility. It suggests that "they're not my children, they belong to another," to the foreigner who in just two days rode a spontaneous wave of popularity, despite an atmosphere of furtive containment.
The marielitos (who fled for the US by boat in 1980), who were seen off with insults and the throwing of eggs, were welcomed as winners when they returned as visitors of "the Community." Historical amnesia has always been an element facilitating injustice, and even more so in a country where the vast majority is struggling just to survive, and need has trumped dignity.
Of course, this is no longer a good time to be fomenting "repudiation" so visibly, nor to get rid of anyone who does not accept the official rhetoric, whether a worker, a great scientist, or an artist or a famous intellectual, the exhibition or publication of his work no longer being banned.
"Obama's children" suggests that self-employment is a necessary evil, when it is actually a right and a vital component for progress in a modern society. Once again an attempt is being made to belittle the merit and question the legitimacy of economically empowered citizens. Once again the government fails to admit that the real (and avoidable) evil has been its wrongheaded administration, and that it is the only one that is grudgingly accepting a change that is only natural.
There are some who aspire to live from their work, and not the adulteration of products for their own countrymen, or the deviation of resources, with the anxiety of being discovered, or by sacrificing scruples to scrounge for a few crumbs. There are those who refuse to accept lives of dissimulation and perennial duress in exchange for material wellbeing. These are not "Obama's children." They are Cuba's. A Cuba that is emerging from dormancy, disfunctionality and absurdity. A Cuba that yearns to play an active role in the world again.