Opinion: The unbearable lightness of Cubanology

By José Manuel Pallí

Even as evidence piles up of the many changes happening in Cuba over the last few years, the latest a surprising shift in the Cuban government’s apparent encouragement of its citizens’ travel plans, our enlightened cubanologists persist in denying what the world at large perceives. The only tool of the practitioners of this pseudo-science seems to be their boundless wishful thinking — as in “how come they haven’t read Hayek”.

Compared to the lack of changes openly visible with regard to other far more pressing and dangerous problems affecting the whole planet, the self appointed rulers of Cuba seem fearless when it comes to taking risks. Just look at the latest version of the regulatory framework for banks worldwide known as Basel III: Our own embattled U.S. government is no match for the Basel gang at kicking the can a few yards ahead, fearfully kowtowing to the bankers by watering down the proposed rules on banks’ capital adequacy, which may now not be in place until 2019. Or look at the recent settlement agreed to by our federal “regulators” on the matter of the vast catalogue of shenanigans our lenders engaged in while foreclosing mortgages. After more than five years of wringing our hands about how to contain a financial tsunami of Biblical proportions, the result is the world is still run by the same guys who ran down the financial system, fooling around — fraudulently at that — with the LIBOR rate, among many other pearls of their infinite greed.

Still, here in Miami we are only concerned with nay saying any and all moves made by Cuba to placate the Cuban people’s craving for change. Instead of supporting what we ourselves refer to as Cuba’s move toward capitalism and free markets — even if the Cuban government calls it adjusting the socialist model — we arrogantly delude ourselves by wishfully thinking Cuba will soon collapse. Rather than focusing on helping the Cuban people to widen what most of them see as a window of opportunity by freely and fully interacting with them, we foolishly and conceitedly argue against any such interaction. We know better than they, probably because we know Hayek and they don’t.

We do not even ask ourselves if the collapse we wish upon them is what the Cuban people want to have to live through: We rather act as if they have earned and deserve it.

Why do we do that? Because we are ruled by our fears. We fear having to concede that the ideal Cuba we wish for may never be realized. We fear having to concede that the individualistic and egocentric view of society we celebrate may not be what the Cuban people have in mind for themselves and may opt for a more socio-centric society — it may sound redundant, but many in the world seem to prefer it — once they are free to make their choice.

But what we fear most is to sit down and have a discussion with the real Cuba about its future. And we fear it because, at this stage, we lack the conviction and the convincing arguments to make our case for what we claim to stand for. What with the calamitous state of political discourse among us, “mired in a web of internal debates and emerging rules and regulations”, especially in the aforementioned field of rampant financial and budgetary insanity. So all we are left with is quoting Hayek, as if it were some kind of mantra. But even if our efforts to perpetuate the status quo regarding what we disingenuously call our “Cuba Policy” may never collapse, it seems guaranteed to perpetuate the status quo in Cuba as well  — 54 years and counting …Thus is the fatalistic stance of cubanology.

Only if we find the courage to overcome our fear and roll up our sleeves, truly engaging in the hard, and probably less than fully satisfying work of trying to change the real Cuba from the inside, will we come closer to our goal of a better Cuba — better not just for us, but for all Cubans, even those who we may not agree with.

José Manuel Pallí is a Cuban-born member of the Florida Bar, originally trained as a lawyer in Argentina. He is president of Miami-based World Wide Title and can be reached at jpalli@wwti.net

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