The death of López-Callejas, a watershed? (opinion)

Publisher’s note: Jorge Dávila Miguel has a degree in Journalism since 1973 and has maintained a continuous career in his profession to date. He has postgraduate degrees in Social Information Sciences and Social Media, as well as postgraduate studies in International Relations, Political Economy and Latin American History. Dávila Miguel is a columnist for El Nuevo Herald on the McClatchy network, and a political analyst and columnist for CNN en Español. The comments expressed in this column belong exclusively to the author. See more at

(CNN Spanish) — The death of Cuban Major General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, known as the “czar” of the Cuban economy, was not sudden. An aggressive lung cancer took him away. He was not murdered either, as some local experts speculate these days, always caught between reality and the novel.

Other hopeful observers assure that his disappearance will mean a turning point, “a before and after”; but the “before” and the “after” in the Cuban political-economic reality have, until now, only one mark: continuity.

It is true that the internal Cuban situation today is the most painful since the revolutionary triumph of 1959. Those who lived through the “special period” at the fall of communism in the USSR, in 1991, and are now going through this new “period”, do not doubt in qualifying it as much more terrible: there is no food in the stores and the wages increased at the beginning of 2021 are not enough to buy them at a premium. Today there are many who go hungry in Cuba. Thirty years have passed of international protests against the US embargo –which the Cuban government calls a blockade–, and the socialist state has done little more than comply with the complaint. It has not been able to produce in the country more than 20% of the food that Cubans consume and has to import up to 80%. Three years ago, President Miguel Díaz-Canel assured on TV that the lack of electricity was “a circumstantial situation”, but today the long blackouts of up to 10 hours hit citizens again. The Cuban health system lacks basic medicines to ensure its function. Thirty years have passed since that “special period” and poverty is greater in Cuba.

Gaesa and the companies that López-Calleja dominated had a very broad spectrum, greater than that of the Cuban State itself, and the total management of a bank that financed their investments: Fincimex. But something more strange: the management, investment and administration of all that monopoly did not have to report to the Comptroller General of the Republic. And perhaps it will continue to be so. It only remains to find out who will be Raúl Castro’s trusted person who would be in charge of said business conglomerate, outside the control of State agencies and who is said to continue to serve socialism, although nobody knows very well how.

Raúl Castro could resist making fundamental changes, assuring himself only the bare minimum that will assure him economic dividends and the loyalty of his chosen ones, in pursuit of following the luminous but impossible path towards Numantine socialism.

But if the Cuban political leadership does not take real awareness of the serious current hardships of the population, and continues betting on the refusal to free the simple Cuban to be a productive and wealth-creating factor, it will be betraying, perhaps without realizing it, the society it claims to defend. Because Karl Marx already said: “It is not consciousness that determines life, but life that determines consciousness.” Social being determines social consciousness. That is to say, that the conditions of people’s material life define how people think in their political conceptions, among others. And not the other way around, as Cuban society has generally been directed.

Silvio Rodríguez, Cuban, true revolutionary where they exist and moral authority where he is, has drawn attention to the harsh reality facing the Cuban people today.

I quote:

“It seems to me that, since ancient times, it has been known that well-being is more important than the triumph of justice […] the various real experiences of socialism show that, as it was conceived, it is impracticable […]. A society that cannot guarantee basic satisfactions is a society in crisis. The lock’s designers knew this; their destructive desire led them to convert it into law, to make it inexorable [… ] Where do we go if we do not recognize what happens to us?[…] It is unfair, as well as insane, to convert chimeras into principles. Not seeing it is hopeless. Imposing it is appalling”.

It does not matter, then, who is designated as López-Calleja’s successor. The important thing is that, as the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said during his recent visit to Havana: “… that the Revolution be capable of renewing itself.” That was not a kind wish from the president of Mexico, it was also a sympathetic warning of what Cuba needs to survive.

The highest political leadership of Cuba has the national and historical obligation to finish accepting and promoting economic reforms, to reform the national economy allowing the Cuban citizen to be free to exercise their right to trade, to the production of goods and food, without the restrictions and limitations that give advantage to state companies. It is not an easy task in the current state of the country, but it is worthy, fair, if that category really counts when it comes to government decisions on the island.

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