Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Freedom and Exchange in Communist Cuba" by Yoani Sánchez

And you thought la flaca could only be sharp and witty in a three paragraph blog post.

The original Spanish version of the following essay, "La libertad como forma de pago," won a prize in the 2009 essay contest "Caminos de la Libertad," organized by TV Azteca.

It was translated from the Spanish by M.J. Porter. The full 11-page English version of the essay can be found here. The original Spanish language essay can be found at the Cato Institute's Spanish language, "El Cato," here.

It captures Sánchez's basic analysis of Communist Cuba:

"For everything the state gives it exacts a price in return."

Or as she puts it:

"Fidel Castro's socialist revolution promised to satisfy the basic needs of the Cuban people, but the price demanded was the surrender of freedoms."

The Cato Institute
Center for Global Liberty & Prosperity
Development Policy Briefing Paper #5
Published on June 16, 2010

Executive Summary
Fidel Castro's socialist revolution promised to satisfy the basic needs of the Cuban people, but the price demanded was the surrender of freedoms. The unthinking enthusiasm that greeted the beginning of the revolution helped pave the way for the disappearance of civil, political, and economic rights within a short period of time.

Instead of a brighter future, misery in Cuba is widespread and the individual is vilified. With the help of Soviet subsidies, state paternalism stripped citizens of their individual and community responsibilities, and established a sort of barter system between freedom and privileges.

The state gave out job promotions, electrical appliances, housing, vacations, and other material goods and perks as rewards for obedience and in recognition of support of the government's priorities — including participation in political rallies, membership in the Communist Party, adherence to atheism, and so on.
Cuban socialism has produced frustrated idealists and opportunists who support the system only out of a search for personal gain. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government has been buying time with the introduction in the 1990s of limited and short-lived reforms, whose reversals accelerated with the help of the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez.

Raúl Castro, who replaced his brother Fidel as president, has only introduced cosmetic reform. An increasing number of Cubans are disillusioned with socialism and are demanding change.

One of the tools that Cubans are now using to recover their freedom of expression and association is the Internet, which has quickly given rise to a community of cyber-dissidents, despite the Cuban government's efforts to make Internet use difficult. Now that the state is out of money and there are no more rights to exchange for benefits, the demand for freedom is on the rise.

And three excerpts:

"It might be said, although it would seem paradoxical, that the Cuban people agreed to repay the debt of gratitude they owed to their liberators with their rights. In exchange for the possessions and rights confiscated by the new government, they received promises of a bright future; payment in advance, however was required."
"To criticize had become inopportune and it was made clear that any gap in the ranks could be used by the enemy. It became common to cite the metaphor of little David against the great Goliath of the north, but the slings of the people were not permitted to launch a single stone at the cyclopean state."
"What was least expected to come to fruition could, in the end, be considered the fundamental achievement of the Cuban Revolution: achieving national sovereignty in the face of a neighbor's voracious appetite. But national security was imposed at the price of renouncing the sovereignty of the people, wherein reside precisely those rights that citizens exercise whenever the state displays authoritarian leanings."

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