Editorial 48. Nov-Dec 2015
ONE YEAR AFTER THE SEVENTEENTH OF DECEMBER: ASSESSMENT AND NATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
The seventeenth of December 2014 undoubtedly opened a new scenario, a new stage in the recent history of Cuba: it was the announcement of the process of re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States. Both heads of States thanked the mediation of Pope Francis and the government of Canada. The respective flags were hoisted on the 20th of July and on the 14th of August; the embassies were re-opened as well. For the first time in 70 years a Secretary of State from the United States paid a visit to Cuba.
After one year of this announcement we can evaluate what we see and know so far:
- The diplomatic mechanisms and the first agendas for the process of normalization have been created; this process has been said to be “long and complicated”. These agendas have been organized including the less troubled topics and the most difficult ones such as democracy and human rights which are always on the table according to the statements made by some officials from the United States.
- The government of the United States has taken presidential measures clearly showing the will to change the policy towards Cuba. Some have considered them audacious and positive; others have considered them excessive; others out of proportion and others wrong.
- The government of Cuba has not repaid with the same agility and has not implemented measures in proportion to the ones from the United States. Some believe that “something” is changing but that there is no correspondence. Others think that the slowness arouses the doubt about the will for real changes.
- Most of the Cuban people received the announcement with great expectations which became more and more discouraged; now some are immersed in a reasonable wait and some and some have stampeded out because they fear the end of the Law of Adjustment or “the lack of solutions”. There is another part of the Cuban people which has lost their ability to believe or wait; they are the skeptical and indifferent ones when they hear a change announcement because they are disappointed at repeated frustrations in the course of more than 50 years.
- The Cuban people, in general, is directly enduring the serious situation of the national economy referring to the primary necessities which has worsened and the state of things has gone more and more like the 90’s which left us a terrible memory.
- There is a growing gap between the ones enduring this shortage (the majority) and the ones who gain access to State business with foreign investments or private business with family investments. This gap is more visible and it makes us notice that a system of doubtful “social justice” or rather State paternalism is dying.
- The political system is going through a serious conceptual turbulence area because the empty political speech is more and more away from reality and on the other hand and at the same time, this very government has made the decision of opening itself up to the international market, to foreign investment in order to retrain itself and become a State monopolist capitalism with no authentic trade union movement or respect for the other labor and social rights; such an ancient, inhuman and obscene system just as the very “socialist” speech denounces it. This kind of turbulence is called process of transition by some persons and others call it destabilization of the whole system.
- The political opposition is also experiencing a process of conceptual turbulence and redefinition of methods and organizational structures. Firstly, it maintains the necessary denunciation of the systematic violation of all Human Rights, especially the public repression of every Sunday; at the same time, the opposition tries to react with political answers and proposals to the new challenges shown by the scenarios we have described and other scenarios. Some people say that this turbulence is a maturing process, a definition of political and partisan roles and the building of agreed strategic agendas which are, in the first place, an answer to the needs of the Nation. Others believe that this turbulence means diversification and others think it to be lack of unity.
- Diversification of roles in Cuban civil society is another sign that this year all sectors of the Nation have been questioned, and replaced, in a sense. We are in a process of redefinition of strategies, missions, aims, and methods of work, trying the ability of Cubans to create, to be revitalized, to make proposals. The incipient fabric of independent Cuban civil society is responding to these challenges and to the new scenarios; it is doing it slowly and by trial and error but undoubtedly aware of the fact that its growing and social impact depend mainly on two factors: its attachment and service to the people’s needs, its ability to organize and its breadth of vision to accomplish its specific mission focussed on one of the many and different roles that a prosperous and democratic nation needs.
- Another sign is the unequal and unfair struggle between the dazzling State management and the small and blocked management, that is, the private businessmen. Even without a wholesale trade the independent workers are reduced to a ridiculous “List of Permits” only for medieval trades excluding professionals and other enterprises of production or services. Moreover, they don’t enjoy the security of a legal framework and they are harassed and extorted by a group of corrupt State inspectors. This corruption is the seed of bossy people, racketeers, mafiosos and viral agents for the perpetration of a failed State. We still have time to revert this degenerative process.
- It is evident and legitimate, necessary and convenient that some groups from civil society find their niche, their roles and performances. This civic fabric will be more a civil society as much as its public service is more diverse and specific. We can verify that the role of independent journalists is redefining itself, more and more, through their blogs, agencies and media. The platforms to find consensus in civil society are redefining themselves. The opposition political parties are redefining their own ideas, programs, statutes and acts of social impact. The party political platforms are being organized in order to search for coordinated agendas. Systematic spaces for ethical and civic education are being created; these spaces are also for the creation of plural thought for the present and the future of Cuba. The organizations for the defense of Human Rights are being consolidated through their national monitorings, their reports and international steps. The legal services and their independent trades are being specialized and consolidated as competent and professional consultancies. Other platforms are being reinforced and announced; they claim freedom for all political prisoners, general amnesty, ratification of Human Rights Agreements and a civic and pacific activism more committed to public demonstration through marches and national campaigns. Nobody should say that their service is the only one and exclusive. All services are necessary and they enrich the Nation. To acknowledge that all of these services are equally valid and necessary could be a sign of the democratic identity of each one of them.
- Family, cultural, academic, political and other kinds of exchanges, though still asymmetric, are an opportunity and an advance of the real normalization which will not be full until relations and systematic free exchange between governments and the respective civil societies are re-established, that is, relations between the same and only Nation living in the Island and in the Diaspora.
- Civil society has undoubtedly taken a step ahead which defines it. It took this step before the Cuban government did: the whole civil society has chosen rejection to violence as a means to struggle and it chose unrestricted attachment to pacific means. Civil society acts confirm this choice. Meanwhile the Cuban government still uses, encourages or passively tolerates violent repressive methods. Acts of repudiation are a national disgrace that Cuban authorities should not exhibit to the world anymore for the sake of Cuba and its prestige. Acts of repudiation and repression must stop immediately.
- Civil society is wider than all this and it spreads itself more and more into diverse sectors of Cuban society in the Island and in the Diaspora. Public debate is an inseparable part of civil society existence, work and structures. Continual and miscellaneous public debates through social networks in different sectors of our society are new signs of the increase of civic leading role. To mention only some of the most recent ones: in the Culture Sector the Cremata affair is unfolding and also the proposal of a new Cinema Law; in the political opposition Sector is unfolding the debate among different actors about the marches and other ways to show dissent; in the business world is taking place the controversy about the opportunity for foreign investments and the obstruction to the initiative of Cuban entrepreneurs; in the religious world there is a polemic about the role of Catholic laypersons in Cuban transition; this polemic has been encouraged by Pope Francis’ visit and by the near celebration of the 30thanniversary of the Cuban Ecclesial National Meeting.
These and many other disputes are unmistakable signs of the struggle between the new and the old; between change and inertia; between the new and the old methods even to reach the same aims. They are not signs of decadence or division. They are signs of a crisis that will bring growth and gestation of the new times.
We should not get shocked by these debates; just let us take care over the ethics and truthfulness. Let us not become discouraged by diversification of roles in Cuban civil society; it is the best sign that the most independent ones have been the first to embrace incipient democracy. It’s just an advance of what is yet to come. So let’s pay attention to the quality of this gestation because our democracy will have the same quality.
One year after the seventeenth of December: we have got new scenarios; there is the scenery; more and more supporting actors come from the rest of the world to see what’s happening and what role they will interpret in this play. However the fundamental thing is still missing: the script and the main characters; that is, the essential content of the work is to lift the State blockage to the liberties and initiatives of citizens and the re-establishment of total democratization in the Nation. The main characters are: the present government and the authentic Cuban civil society; and the scheme of the play should take place through inclusion, negotiation and national dialogue.
The year 2016 will bring new events and opportunities; may that year be a time when all Cubans assume the drawing-up of this new national script and we go on the new stages so that no spurious actor who might be authoritarian or lonely is able to steal the play from us: the play of a free, prosperous, responsible and happy nation.
Pinar del Río, November 20, 2015
On the 227th Anniversary of Father Varela’s Birth.