"2023 has to be a better year; we have all the foundations, in addition to the conviction that it can be…" said the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez at the last meeting of the Council of Ministers in 2022, where, with much pomp and self-satisfaction, the Plan for the National Economy and the State Budget for 2023 was presented. In the end, it wasn't a better year at all.
The final results were so disastrous that it is not even worth breaking down the economic situation line by line. What would be the point? Beyond any combination of words and data, the Cuban reality is now evident in every building that collapses, every woman pleading on social media for help for a sick son or father, every athlete's desertion, every delay in the products on the ration card, every blackout, every pipe in a neighborhood without water, every old man stuck up to his waist at a garbage dump, and every goodbye with a "son, I hope to see you again soon."
The saddest thing is that yes, 2023 could have been a better year, but it wasn't because Raúl Castro, Díaz-Canel and the same old criminal clique is still in power. In 2023, when we woke up the tyrannosaurus was still there, and they all remain there because we are still asleep, or only wake up when there we put a sea between us. The tyrannosaurus endures, and will continue to because many prefer to live under his noxious shadow, feeding on the bloody crumbs he drops. The monster has managed to turn our escapes into a thriving business. Scaring us so that we leave profits him... and we leave.
But that is in the past. Although 2023 has just ended, who remembers it? The thoughts and worries of most are about what is coming in 2024, or, what is about to descend upon us, for we already know that it is going to be worse.
It's simple: socialist Cuba has been drained to the last drop and destroyed, screw by screw and brick by brick. No matter how much "reform" they introduce, no matter how much the Company Law they are cooking up modifies the rules of the game, no matter how much they strive to stabilize or "liberate" the economy, they can no longer do anything to make 2024 a better year.
Neither do they have the billions of dollars needed to avert the ensuing humanitarian catastrophe, nor do they have the necessary confidence of investors and lenders to acquire them. Will moving from December 2023 to January 2024 improve Castroism's international image? Does turning the page on a calendar undo the criminal record of a dictatorship that has been swindling everyone on its shores for the past 65 years? And, if their criminality is not enough, the fact that the State's revenues will cover only 71% of the country's public expenses this year is a gigantic red warning light in the Cuban sky scaring off anyone thinking of negotiating one penny of business with the country's reckless leaders.
So, although we will be able to pick apart the strands of each of Castroism's economic measures, laying bare the regime's impudence and psychopathic disinterest in the well-being of the people, none of those measures will be really relevant because, no matter how it is disguised, everyone is already familiar with the stench of the tyrannosaurus and, apart from the scoundrels who are amassing millions by collecting on the ransom that, with growing dismay, emigrants pay their families kidnapped by the PCC, no one from outside wants to seriously invest in Cuba, and the only thing that those on the inside want to invest in is leaving.
One just has to take a good look at the wilting real estate market to appreciate the lack of confidence in the future casting a pall over the Island.
But let's make one thing clear: this year will be worse not because there is a lack of rice, buses, or nitrofurazone; what dooms Cuba in 2024 are its 365 impending days without freedom, subjugated, abused, rotting without human dignity, living on one's knees ― which, according to the National Anthem, is not living at all.
It will not matter if, miraculously, everything improves and they actually distribute the bread on the ration card, with the established 80 grams; or milk returns for those over age seven, or pork drops to ten pesos a pound. In the end the economy doesn't really matter as long as they are still there. Although we may continue calculating, analyzing reforms and asking ourselves how they managed to reduce a fertile island to a marabou wasteland of marabou, let's not stop thinking about freedom, because it is the only thing that will make 2024, 2025, or whenever, a better year in Cuba.