December 2015


Rebeca Monzo, 29 December 2015 — We are now almost at the end 2015 and outside one can detect a distinctive feeling of sadness. People wander the streets, going from poorly stocked farmers markets to stores in their daily search for food. If they cross your path and you wish them a “Merry Christmas,” not only do they not return the greeting, they look at you stunned, as though you were an extra-terrestrial.

Very few hard currency stores are decorated with lights or Christmas trees. The others — the ones that price goods in the misnamed Cuban peso, a currency that is almost worthless but the one in which salaries and pensions are paid — do not even carry normal every-day light bulbs. Their shelves are either unabashedly empty or are filled with the same product. Their display windows are broken and grime covers the floors and glass.

There is no media coverage of traditional celebrations, only stories about the latest anniversary of the triumph of a revolution, which from the beginning was already showing signs of what it would ultimately become: a complete failure.

Never has the Cuban family been so divided and dispersed as it is now. Christmas Eve passed without notice. The streets were as deserted and dark as usual, and there were none of those enticing aromas of yesteryear wafting from neighborhood kitchens that gave hints of a pleasant meal to come.

If this is the socialism the government says it wants to “perfect,” may God help us!

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Rebeca Monzo, 18 December 2015 — Yesterday, December 17, marked the one-year anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the Republic of Cuba.

In my earlier post I noted that, when this event occurred, it unleashed many feelings, ranging from joy to apprehension. It quickly became obvious that there were two emotions in particular that Cubans were experiencing quite keenly. On the one hand, there was great hope at the prospect of major changes so long desired by the vast majority of Cubans both inside and outside the country. On the other hand, there was the fear that the Cuban Adjustment Act, presumably now irrelevant, would be repealed.

This latter concern led to the massive exodus of Cubans to any Latin American country they felt might serve as a trampoline to vault them to the United States, as well as the flight of the “lucky ones,” who could go to the U.S. directly. Rather than implement urgent changes necessary in a country mired in a full-blown social, economic and political crisis, an intransigent Cuban government has instead obstinately made ridiculous demands, which have only succeeded in stalling the negotiations, in an effort to buy time.

It is obvious that, at least so far, it is the Obama administration that has initiated all the efforts aimed at improving relations. Meanwhile, Raul has insisted on reparations that he knows full well will not be paid — brandishing them like symbols of a highly questionable national sovereignty and independence — while using and forcing Cuban media to adopt accusatory, obsolete and undiplomatic language when referring to the United States.

Unless this changes, we will continue experiencing economic, political and social stagnation, which — along with the crises facing the Maduro government and the Latin American left — only threaten to get worse.

The only positive images in our minds and on our retinas have undoubtedly been the raising of the flag at the American embassy in Havana and the raising of our flag in Washington.