The year 2020 has begun and the number brings to mind the best eyesight or vision that a human being can have. Given the critical conditions in which we find ourselves in the Island, in Latin America and in the world, and keeping in mind that all Century 21 Socialist projects have run their course to such an extent that they have had to resort to violence and prevarication, we have begun the year utilizing the simile of biological vision. With this comparison we wish to express that Cuba, all Cubans, need our very best vision in order to analyze the situation, discerning what is good and true so as to act accordingly.
In effect, as the socio-political or economic projects bite the dust, innumerable dangers and provocations emerge. This blind alley would seem to have no way out, and the worse thing we can do is to become paralyzed in the “trench” of blind resistance, or erecting ideological “walls” to separate a nation in which all of us need to be accounted for. It is not ethical to “stretch the rubber band” of people’s patience. It is not fair to experiment the unimaginable with human beings only out of pure obstinacy against reality. What doesn’t work needs to be changed, because the people’s patience is sacred and whosoever closes the door to peaceful change opens the door to violence, to desperate measures, to borderline actions, and this we must avoid among all of us: yielding in what needs to be yielded and opening that which must be opened.
Power must not be a pretext for violence. Power is meant to protect. Power is to be placed at the service of peace, of citizen integrity, of all rights and of freedom, things that are consubstantial to nature and to the dignity of all men and women.
The duty of all States is to protect the citizenry
All citizens need to keep calm, not abandoning peaceful methods, and not allowing ourselves to be provoked by hegemonic powers from within or from outside. Those that exercise power, in any part of the world as well as in Cuba, are and should be public servants and not guardians of paralysis regardless of ways or means. Governments, all of them, in whatever circumstances, are not in place to damage those rights, they are in place to protect them above any ideology, political strategy or economic model.
Let’s get back to the teachings of the Church on this topic. We have cited it several times, but today it is even more relevant than ever, in many places, as well as in Cuba:
“Every State has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments. The action of the international community and its institutions, provided that it respects the principles undergirding the international order, should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage. (Benedict XVI, Speech at the UN, New York, Friday, April 18, 2008).
This is not a contemporaneous invention, a current justification, it is not a political option belonging to one country, or from a dominant bloc, it is an undeniable legacy and achievement of the peoples of the world as illuminated by a humanism of Christian inspiration that underscored Western Civilization and has extended throughout the world as one of the most dignified and necessary civilizing advances such as: the Rule of Law, Human Rights, full dignity and primacy of the human person above all else, above politics, economics, ideologies, and any social project. These realities will not be authentic unless they respect this fundamental primacy which always and everywhere values the human person as “the center, the subject and the end” of all system of life. Pope Benedict XVI, in the same UN speech cited, explained the origin of centuries of this principle which ought to be followed by all governments:
“The principle of ‘responsibility to protect’ was considered by the ancient ius gentium (right of the peoples or of the nations) as the foundation of every action taken by those in government with regard to the governed: at the time when the concept of national sovereign States was first developing, the Dominican Friar Francisco de Vitoria, rightly considered as a precursor of the idea of the United Nations, described this responsibility as an aspect of natural reason shared by all nations, and the result of an international order whose task it was to regulate relations between peoples. Now, as then, this principle has to invoke the idea of the person as image of the Creator, the desire for the absolute and the essence of freedom.” (Benedict XVI, UN Speech, New York, Friday, April 18, 2008).
Let’s look for the way out together
But this is not a matter of simply holding on and waiting in resignation for that essential freedom to be returned to the nations. All of us citizens need to contribute with our part of the solution. We say all and not only those that defend and preach human rights, or those that “enjoy political partisanship.” We say everyone because that very same condition of citizenship with which we are born is one of the achievements of modern civilization: to stop being subjects to be born as free citizens. This obliges us, invites us, ethically obligate us to contribute, in whichever way a person considers opportune, free and responsible, to that vision, proposal or route map for conflicts and violations that impact all societies.
This is not “entering politics” understood as cheap politics. This is to become a citizen. This is to exercise the right of citizenship that comes to us by birth and from the liberty that God has endowed us with at birth. Nothing, nobody, and no law or State can, or should limit this essentially human condition. To exercise this citizen sovereignty is true politics, keeping in mind that politics comes from the Greek “polis” which means city or town, which in Latin equates to “civitas”, and so politics means to work for the betterment of the city or country and this is a civic duty, it is the way to do politics-civics in a way that concerns us all. To those that have a vocation for it, the other form of engaging in politics, that is, partisan politics, is as much legitimate and as pluralistic as the politics that encompasses everyone.
Due to that civil and political commitment all of us Cubans need to contribute our vision, our pluralistic proposals, or our vocation for public debate, to the true dialogue that we should not allow to become deprecated by spurious and dilatory drills that calls itself dialogue. Dialogue is, and will always be preferable to violence and repression. Dialogue, when it is truthful, is the supreme expression of citizenship and peaceful coexistence. Memory, dialogue, transitional justice, magnanimity and reconciliation are milestones of the route map for the peaceful transition that Cuba deserves. We get back to the teachings of the Church regarding this point:
“What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation.” (Benedict XVI, UN Speech, New York, Friday, April 18, 2008).
It is not only a Catechism lesson that the Pontiff imparts on the congregation, it belongs to the Social Doctrine of the Church, and therefore, it is its civic contribution to all humanity pronounced in the modern Aeropagus of the United Nations.
Coming down to our daily reality, a true history can help us to exemplify the situation in which Cubans are living in: A college professor who works in Cuba, when having to respond to the daily questioning by bewildered History students, has made a different comparison: “We are at the last bus stop…” and it would seem that no other buses are headed this way.
This phrase can be debated, it can be nuanced, it can even be repressed, but in our opinion it can reflect the state of the issue at this very moment in Cuba. Reforms cannot be postponed without end, one cannot play with the patience of the people, a rubber band cannot be stretched until it snaps.
With all due respect, we believe that “we are at the last bus stop” it is time to open up new routes, to search for a way out, to get Cuba out of the trenches to place it upon the wide and pluralistic way of the paths of the world. Only opening pathways can a people demonstrate their sovereignty, their talents, their ability for renewal, to grow in citizenship, in liberty, in responsibility, in social justice and in prosperity.
The year 2020 should be the year of opening up to those new pathways for Cuba as well as pathways of peace, freedom, justice and love. It is necessary to have “vision” to look out at the horizon, discernment to elect the best way, and sovereign will to act as behooves that discernment.
We Cubans can and Cuba deserves it already.
Pinar del Río, January 28, 2020
Anniversary of the birth of José Martí, Apostle of our Independence