During this month of April 2021, a generational change in Cuba is expected to be completed. It is assumed that those who made the revolution that came to power in 1959 will relinquish their positions at the head of the Communist Party, the Cuban Government, and the Cuban State. The vast majority of those who will assume these responsibilities now were not born before that distant date; or were children when an epic story tried to fulfill the expectations of a return to democracy within the 1940 Constitution. This would never take place.
The generation that now occupies positions at the top of the echelon no longer has either the spirit or the epic narrative to hold on to. It is a generation of the day-to-day administrative routine, a gray bureaucracy, of the unfulfilled, of the normal, and the commonplace. The heroic flame being extinguished it now moves on to a historical plainness. A country cannot be an endless battlefield. Life is more than confrontation, class struggle, external, and internal enemies. That life is unlivable. Cuba deserves another life. It deserves the joy of freedom, the peace of dignified work, a human ecology for the integral development of its citizens in a democratic coexistence of quality and tranquility. Everyday life is only “heroic” when it holds a path of personal and national progress. Otherwise, nothing will be able to maintain the war chant or the yawn of continuity.
The need for change
What there is in Cuba today is an urgent need for structural change. One thing is desirable, and another is necessary. What is necessary is peremptory, it is a moral duty, it is a task that cannot be postponed, at the risk of greater evils. Generational change is not enough. Changing the age group in charge is not enough for structural change. A reorganization is not enough, a change of model is necessary, from inefficiency to productivity, from lists of permits or prohibitions on work to the liberation of all productive forces.
Cuba does not deserve that its professionals, its intellectuals, its artists, its entrepreneurs, continue to suffer an internal blockade of their abilities and talents. Cuba does not need more plans and guidelines from above. Cuba needs changes, freedoms, and rights to be reborn from below. What is the meaning of “leading” the people towards a future that instead of getting better, gets worse? What is the significance of having a minority group of Cubans think they know better and have to explain “measures” to the rest of Cubans? What does it mean to impose restrictions and a single ideology on all Cubans? What shall we call this?
A generational change is not enough if it does not open the door to change in peace. The responsibility of rulers around the world to “take care” of their people is not paternalism, authoritarianism, or totalitarianism. When a consensus consecrates the concept of “care” in health, in coexistence, as well as in politics, it refers to the exercise of the rule of law. This means caring for, guarding, guaranteeing a legal framework, and a climate of coexistence that allows civil, political, economic, social, and cultural freedoms. Caring for democracy is not behaviorism or political stubbornness. When the elders of the house confuse caring for the new generations with the imposition of their authority to give continuity to the ideas, lifestyles, and projects of their grandparents, they lose their children and grandchildren. Simply put because the world moves on and life changes. Everything changes. That is why Cuba needs changes. Due to that simple logic, and because what we are living now is not life. Surviving is not living as every human being deserves. Crisis cannot be the permanent habitat, although growth crises are the engines of development. But the most ancient wisdom says that there is time for everything: to sow and to reap, to weep and to laugh, (Ecclesiastes 3). In Cuba it is time to change so that the time to laugh, to reap, and to progress may come.
The will to change
The need for change is one thing, and the will to change is quite another. Change is a decision. It is a decision of the various protagonists of change.
Compare the newscast Noticiero Nacional de Televisión, and other government media, to the vast majority of social networks on the Internet. Anyone can see where the will for change lies and where there is resistance to change. For centuries, those who want change have been called “revolutionaries”, usually when these changes entail violence. But in Cuba, all those who show their will for change want it by peaceful means. This is called evolution, or transformation, or transition.
To verify the willingness to change of a great majority of the Cuban people, let us consult the surveys conducted by Cuban government agencies regarding “The Reordering” and on some television programs. The answers are overwhelming. The most important thing is not the who, but the what, the why and the how. Many want change. If you do not trust the polls, then just listen in a “queue” or in a health center, or just go to a workplace, or listen to young people and their favorite songs and dreams.
Well, it is clear, and even more so lately with the publicity given to it by the media in an attempt to disqualify it, that Cuban civil society is growing and organizing itself. More importantly, it is undergoing a process of diversification of roles, a hallmark of its maturation: there are artists, journalists, feminists, LGBTI, animal rights activists, civic activists, opposition parties, churches, professionals, academics, self-employed workers, and a very varied network that has developed to recognize their needs, and they have found that acting in coordinated groups their efforts and demands for change have more impact and results. All of this is still insufficient, but these clearly point the way.
Generational change is not enough, nor is the obvious need for change enough. It is necessary that every Cuban comes out of inertia, fear, and immobility to be ready to honestly express the truth of what we are living, to contribute with possible solutions, and to contribute with what we know how to do to lead the change that Cuba needs.
Let us put hands and thoughts, actions, and hearts together for Cuba to change in an orderly and peaceful manner.
Pinar del Río, March 25, 2021
126th Anniversary of the writing of the Montecristi Manifesto