For the classical Greeks, a crisis (krinein) was a situation of profound, uncertain, sudden and violent changes, with hardly reversible consequences that transcended a given scenario. In 1959 the Revolution began in Cuba, which has proven both a crisis and a tragedy.
Over the course of this chronically difficult period, there have been extreme downturns, such as the first years of the Revolution, the last five years of the 70s, and, especially, the 90s. Now, since 2017, this perpetual Cuba's crisis has been worsening again.
Yes, we are still far from the hell that Fidel Castro cynically called the "Special Period", because, comparatively speaking, today we are swimming in abundance compared to those years when there was no transportation, blackouts were the norm, and people actually went blind from hunger.
Even though the situation has not deteriorated to the depths it did 30 years ago, there have already been more and bigger protests than in the 1990s, so it can be categorically stated that Castroism is, indeed, in its darkest hour. Let's take a look at why.
The speed of the decline
Fidel Castro shored up his reign by turning Cuba into a Soviet aircraft carrier, so the geostrategic realignment after Gorbachev meant that the crisis of the 1990s hit the island very suddenly, unlike the present one, which is a slow decline.
The worst tortures are not those that provoke the greatest immediate pain, but rather those that produce sadistic, inexorable and increasing suffering. A quick event, no matter how excruciating it may be, allows for a psychological adjustment after it. A continuous process makes such psychological adjustment more difficult, as every time it seems that it could not get any worse, it does, preventing one from avoiding, apart from the crisis itself, constant frustration.
This prolonged recession, like the torment of Chinese water torture, irritates people more than that sudden depression.
In the 1990s, even those who lived through the crises prior to the artificial heyday of the second half of the 1980s did not imagine how much worse the country could get. No one foresaw the levels of impoverishment that would be reached. The predominant emotion was surprise.
Today, a majority of Cubans, traumatized by the Special Period, know the depths to which the economy can sink... and that scares them. There is no longer surprise. Rather, the prevalent emotion is the fear of returning to that ― a fear that, occasionally, exceeds that engendered by the regime′s repressive forces.
A whirlwind of change
The political and economic reform during the Special Period, though major, was much slower, less far-reaching, and more reversible than the measures today.
Today's changes, although slow compared to what was done in the 90s, are a kind of whirlwind, one reminiscent of the series of the reform in the USSR, which, a priori, seemed controllable by the CPSU, but unleashed a cascade of social and economic transformations that spun out of the mafia-like, oppressive party′s control.
The PCC knows it is walking a tightrope, and not even they can say how much they can transform the model without losing control. So, they are groping, and when you grope... you can fall.
While back then the internal debacle could be explained away as an effect of the Soviet collapse, an event apparently separated from the Castro model, today's excuses, with the US "blockade" chief among them, are widely questioned. Even Raúl Castro's own administrators can no longer conceal the congenital unsustainability of the Castroist model. The people do not believe.
In the 1990s, the sacrifice was to "save socialism," which meant saving Fidel, but today the model, by all accounts, is evolving towards a crony-controlled capitalism far removed from the Marxist-Stalinist principles on which Castroism was based.
There has been a transition from a regime with a highly ideological image that only had to portray itself as a master of doctrine, to a pragmatic one that needs to prove its merit through palpable results, or impose itself by force, which is always a weakness.
The Fidel Factor
Most Cubans ― even among those who opposed him ― admired Fidel. A great many adored him, and absolved him of all his misdeeds. Fidel was a leader. The leadership of all the leaders since, including his heir Raúl, pales in comparison to that of the founding dictator. Without Fidel, Cubans are willing to put up with far less.
The Special Period hit Cuba at a time when the country still had a great deal of productive capital (machinery, infrastructure, industry), because the Soviet period left trucks, tractors, thermoelectric plants, trains, ships, agricultural machinery, irrigation systems, dams, factories and other capital goods, in a country that still had well-paved streets and houses without cracks.
Very little of that remains. The vast majority ― starting with the sugar industry, the fishing fleet, and industry and agriculture ― has been devastated by 30 years of use without adequate amortization or replacement.
Even if Castroism mutates into an efficient system (which is a big if!) in Cuba there is very little to work with and produce, and what remains is old and obsolete.
Over the course of these 30 years Castroism has been repeatedly exposed as an unreliable business partner. Hundreds of investors have left the island with unpaid debts, and thousands of projects have never worked out because the Government always subordinates the economy to its private interests.
Fewer and fewer foreign financiers are paying attention when Castroism promises "legal security.″ Who wants to invest in a country with such a history of impunity and arbitrariness, and that continues to foment enmity with the United States?
Unlike in the 1990s, more and more emigrants are aware that, with their money, they are feeding the monster that drove them from Cuba and that is holding their relatives hostage. Although only a tiny minority will refrain from helping their loved ones, many are already limiting or placing conditions on their aid, and refusing to invest in the island.
The totalitarianism that Fidel implanted with premeditation, malice, and the support of the oblivious masses, completely crushed a previously thriving civil society. The countless funerary pantheons of fraternal, professional, regional, religious, student, worker, trade union and political societies in the Columbus Cemetery evidence that civic spirit that was quashed and, until very recently, suppressed by paranoia. But Cubans′ reticence is fading and people today, as they never were in the 90s, are political actors; still reluctant, but emerging from their shells.
The ten points above, among others, point to the fact that, although as one commentator nicknamed Captain Nemo says, we "lived through a brutal Special Period, and we put up with it"... today it's different.
Castroism has nothing left to offer. The "social contract" on which its future depends is no longer based on ideology or the "achievements" of the Revolution, but rather on its ability to revive the economy, and if it fails to do so quickly, the people will become even more fed up with the hollow leadership of obese men whose lights never go out and whose children enjoy luxuries that are unthinkable for ordinary Cubans.
No matter how dark this hour is, however, Castroism is a weed, and weeds do not succumb on their own. To eradicate them, they must be uprooted, and their vestiges must be fumigated and burned. That weeding ― a political process that is never violent ― has not yet begun, but the worse this crisis gets, the more Cubans will want to remove those weeds in order to sow a new future.