Leonardo Padura: I Feel That We Have Emerged from a Nightmare

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Cuban writer Leonardo Padura sees the reestablishment of relations between the U.S. and his country as the end of a “nightmare” and the light at the end of the tunnel that heralds a hopeful future, The Latin American Herald Tribune reports.
However, he also warns that the historic agreement is not a “magic wand” which will solve all of the country’s problems.
“I feel as if we have emerged from a nightmare, as if we have come out of a tunnel and are beginning to see a light,” said Padura, in an interview to Efe at his home in Havana.
The news on Dec. 17 that brought an end to a more than 50-year period of hostility between the U.S. and Cuba arrived on the same day as Padura began his next novel.
“I jumped out of my skin. Lucia (his wife) began to cry. I was in a state of shock and Lucia was overcome with emotion. It was something that we thought was never going to happen, that we were never going to see it,” explains the author of “The Man Who Loved Dogs.”
Although unwilling to speculate about the future, Padura hopes “it will be better because the people of Cuba deserve it.”
He also believes that the first effects of the development will be on the economy, especially through a boost in the number of American visitors.
“The North American tourist, unlike those of other countries around the world, is a tourist that has 15 percent on his mind: that 15 percent is the tip. And that is why he is considered the world’s best client,” jokes the Cuban writer.
Besides generating revenue for the tourism sector, Padura believes the coming of more U.S. tourists to Cuba will also benefit the private hospitality and lodging businesses.
According to Padura, there is also the possibility of foreign investment determined by the lifting of the economic embargo that still exists on the country although it is still in the draft stage.
The writer also hopes that the rapprochement between the countries leads to an improvement in telecommunications and access to internet in his country: “someone who doesn’t live in Cuba cannot imagine the problems we have in getting information and being able to work,” with most citizens unable to connect to the internet at home and those who can are forever battling with old, slow and expensive technology.
But for all of this to happen, Cuba will have to change the rhetoric that it has used to refer to its powerful neighbor for decades, Padura says.
“It will have to change the rhetoric as well as the way of relating to a country with whom it will continue having differences for a long time, but with whom Cuba can coexist. And it is better to coexist,” he explains.
Nonetheless, Padura warns that the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba is not “the magic wand” that will solve all of Cuba’s problems.
“It’s true that (many problems) can be due to the sanctions, but there are others that are due to inefficiencies, structural, conceptual, or mental problems (…) Until the Cuban economy manages to function efficiently many of the problems we have will not be solved,” said the writer, citing low salaries as one of the key issues to be addressed.
Commenting on the possibility of this development leading to greater social and political openness on the island, Padura believes that “we will have to see how things unfold” in Cuba towards “a much more open and participatory society,” regardless of the rapprochement with the United States.

For the original report go to http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2367009&CategoryId=14510

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