Every other blog except Babalú is encouraged when a thread suddenly comes alive. A wide berth is usually given to such fecund posts and they are allowed to grow in the sunlight. In Babalú's case, however, having an active post is a standing threat to its fragile comity which must be beaten to death at birth and buried in a mountain of posts improvised for that reason. Such was the case with Anatasio Blanco's post, "The Regime's Priorities Speak Volumes," which was really about his own priorities in the current crisis. In the comments section he confessed that he had sent money to his starving relatives in Cuba "with no qualms or reservations in [his] heart," ignoring Val Prieto's injunction that "Cubans don't need money because there's nothing for them to buy." We had, of course, guessed as much when Anatasio published an edited version of his cousin's letter some three weeks earlier. It seemed inconceivable to us that his cousin would have written him about the situation in Cuba without soliciting his help, which, we were also sure, he would not have denied. Prudence, I suppose, had convinced Anatasio not to reproduce that part of the letter. Babalú's contributing writers, like Granma's, have learned to practice self-censorship in order to avoid being censored, which makes life so much easier for them as well as for the censor. But Marc Másferrer's resistance to Val's homicidal intentions towards the Cuban people must have emboldened Anatasio and convinced him that he, too, should take a stand on their behalf even if it put him at loggerheads with Babalú's "Founder Editor." It is always a risky endeavor at Babalú to side with Cubans who are not in jail or at least on their way there. Everybody else is "suspect."
Val reacted with his standard mock reply to all allusions to remittances: "LET'S SEND MONEY!!!!!!" By which he means, of course, let's not send money. Now, Val is not by any means uncharitable. He has collected monies on his blog for a host of worthy causes and many dubious ones as well (the latter usually having to do with him). But the one thing that he will never allow is for his blog to be used as a vehicle for relieving the suffering of the Cuban people, because their suffering, Val believes, is an instrumentality that can be used to effect their liberation by precipitating a social explosion. Therefore, the Human Pressure Cooker of Val's own devising should never stand idle for even a second. That Castro himself has been operating his own Human Pressure Cooker for 50 years as an instrument of social control and obtained results contrary to Val's expectations has not diminished Val's enthusiasm for it. In fact, he's more obsessed with rendering the Cuban people in his pressure cooker than ever before.
Of course, there are not two pressure cookers but really only one. The suffering which Castro inflicts on the Cuban people is no different from that which Val endorses. The results are also the same. If making Cubans miserable lessened his power over them, Castro would then -- and only then -- concern himself with their welfare in order to restore that power. But, of course, the more miserable they are, the more dependent on him they become; and the more dependent they are, the less likely to challenge him. Napoleon said that an army marches on its stomach. He meant that soldiers will not fight well or at all if they are not adequately fed. A people also marches or does not march on their stomachs. If, unlike Napoleon, you want your people not be able to march for fear that they might march against you, if you want literally to take the fight out of them, then starve them. That will insure that they won't be marching anywhere and certainly not marching against you. If Val were a student of history (insert here laugh track), he would know that Napoleon was right and would realize that nothing is to be gained by starving Cubans except to assure the enemy's victory.
We have always suspected, however, that Val's Human Pressure Cooker was conceived as not just a strategic but punitive measure. As a strategy it may be a disaster but as a way to punish the Cuban people for not living up to his expectations, it suits Val just fine. A famine would suit him better, and the prospect of one whetted his fondest hopes and elicited his highest efforts in the wake of the hurricanes. For Val, a famine and his pressure cooker were an unbeatable combination. The fact that Castro was also doing his part by rejecting offers of humanitarian assistance contributed to Val's euphoria. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez's decision to continue restrictions on remittances and family visits, which he based on Val's own rationale that Cubans didn't need money, practically had Val building a yacht in his back yard for his triumphal return to Bayamo after Castro is toppled. Then, I am sure, he will bring a crate of quinina (no, he won't understand the reference).
Well, Val has been left high and dry, so to speak. The misery of the Cuban people has increased exponentially just as he hoped. The regime has even instituted rationing at the farmers' markets, which means that all food distribution is now under its direct control except what is sold on the black market. As Anatasio put it, "The Cuban economy and national morale are in complete shambles." Yet the pressure cooker has not exploded.
By now Val should have realized, unless he's completely detached from reality or blinded by hate, that the pressure cooker will never serve his ends. There is a solution which commenter Conchita volunteered and Val ignored completely: "[L]et's send some TANKS with Cuban freedom fighters in them! The only way things are going to 'change' in Cuba is by blasting through the walls!" Blasting through walls is not something that Val has any intention of doing. He is sure that if he waits long enough there will be no walls. Besides, the responsibility of toppling Castro is not his. His tangential connection to Cuba, though it entitles him to berate Cubans on the island for not accomplishing the impossible sans food, sans arms and sans everything, exempts him from any personal responsibility for Cuba's fate. Though he has lived for all but the first 3 years of his life in freedom, Val feels no commiseration for those who have spent their entire lives in slavery; instead, Val is of the opinion that they owe him something and resents deeply that they have been so remiss in paying that literal blood debt.
Val's exchange with Anatasio over remittances was not as acrimonious as his earlier debate with Marc. I suppose that we can attribute his benignity to the fact that, as Val tells Anatasio in the prelude to his comments, "I love you dud." By which, I again suppose, we are to understand that he is more favorably disposed to Anatasio in other respects than remittances and that his general good-will overwhelms this not so parochial difference. Nevertheless, Val's indulgence does not extend to Anatasio's starving family in Cuba despite his friend's candid admission that he has acted to save their lives. I do not doubt that Val would sit Anatasio's family at his table if they were here. But since they are in Cuba and not in Miami, he resents it mightily that Anatasio would do anything to hinder the progress of his Human Pressure Cooker. I suppose that his own impartiality when it comes to sacrificing Cubans must seem to Val some kind of Spartan virtue. If it were his own parents that he was sacrificing rather than other people's his impartiality would be seen in its true light. But because his victims are strangers (to him , at least) does not make his inhumanity less conspicuous.
It is Val's contention that all assistance sent to Cuba ends up in the coffers of the regime. If that were the whole truth three things would naturally follow: a). Cubans are idiots for requesting remittances that will do them no good; b). exiles are idiots for sending them money that will never reach them; and c). the Castros are idiots for having contrived A and B and therefore assured that no one would request or send remittances in the first place.
The money from remittances circulates widely in Cuba and provides a safety net not only for the recipients but for friends and collateral relations. Without it, everybody would be one day away from starvation. The money that is spent on the black market -- and much of it is because prices there are lower than in Castro's stores -- drives the counter-economy, which exists by plundering the warehouses of Castro Inc. Remittances, of course, profit the regime, but at the same time they are an engine of economic sabotage which bleeds the system while restoring to the Cuban people what is rightly theirs and depriving the henchmen of their spoils. Far from understanding this unauthorized transfer of wealth Val has on more than one occasion condemned those who requisition stolen property from the regime and divert it to the Cuban people. Supposedly, turning the screws on their oppressors breeds "dishonesty" and undermines the Cuban character.
Cubans on the island are in a Catch-22 situation: they are berated by the Babalunians for not doing enough to topple Castro and berated also when they undermine the very foundations of the regime. One wonders what Val considers more superfluous to Cuba's future: the regime or the Cuban people? Probably he cannot decide between them and wishes to take no chances.
[I urge you to read (if you can stand it) Val Prieto's "Parable of the Water Pump," the most ridiculous pap ever written about the fatal effects not of the "want of a nail" but of the possession of one. The moral of Val's story is that a water pump in the hands of a Cuban could lead to the next Flood].