Who Benefits From the Release of the Cuban Political Prisoners?

The recent release by the Cuban government of the 52 detained prisoners in the spring of 2003 can be interpreted in several ways. We shall examine some possible strategies or possibilities. And in all of them, the one gaining the most is General Raul Castro’s regime.

Certain national and international analysts think that the release of the nonviolent opponents displaces the fragmented internal dissidence. Maybe they are right.

In any case, the national opposition is weak, with a political project unknown to the majority of the population on the island and it is infiltrated to its marrow by the intelligence services.

To make things easier for the Castro government, in the last decade certain opponents have been focused on strife, nepotism, excessive profanity and an immeasurable protagonist role.

Among so much quarrel, corruption of certain leaders, warlordism and messianic projects that do not correspond with the reality of the country, and serve only so that American agencies give them money, which evaporates into questionable conduct, one can reach the conclusion that the release of the 52 opponents did not score points, nor will it pave the way for a possible dialogue between the government and the dissidence.

The Cuban dissidence is not at its best. It’s a trivial opposition. It hurts to say it, but that’s the way I see it. Its aims and premises are the same that the majority of the Cuban population wish. But its working methods have devalued.

The clever ones who work with General Castro did their math. The death of the dissident Orlando Zapata and the constant walks of the brave Ladies in White, together with the hunger strike of Guillermo Farinas, warmed the track and instigated critics across half the world.

Something had to be done. And it was Raul Castro’s loyal generals who lead the country. All the enterprises which function and generate an income one way or another are controlled by the olive-green entrepreneurs.

The antiquated Russian tanks have been, for many years, falling apart in the underground shelters. Just like the outdated MiG fighters and the antiaircraft guns. In the absence of a war against the North, which will never happen, the Cuban nomenklatura dedicated itself to business.

They learned marketing, costs and benefits. So that they could improve their financial situation on the island, they received big commissions and abundant diets from capitalist entrepreneurs. When they look at themselves in the mirror, they notice how much better they look in tailor suits, rather than in their rough military uniforms.

To these generals, who like to say Sir rather than colleague, who prefer the good table, Spanish wines and Scottish whisky to the sugarcane rums, they are the ones who encouraged Castro II to launch a truce.

They made a deal with the Cuban Church and the Vatican. With Spain, and underneath the table, with some sectors of the Obama administration.

They are willing to dialogue with any actor inside or outside the country, except with local opposition, for the simple reason that our dissidence, between the harassment of State Security, its quarrelsome language and its inertia, has dug its own political tomb.

Another of the variants, calculated with care by those who govern the destinies of the country, is that the economy is sinking with no remedy in sight.

If people still think that their future is in Miami or Madrid, that working is not worth it because wages are a joke in bad taste, that their pantries and wallets are empty and that the displeasure of the ordinary citizen towards the regime constant increases, then the policy change is imposed in an accelerated way.

For a logical and forceful reason. If the depressed living standards of Cubans are not improved, they will lose power. And they bet on controlled changes. They look at Vietnam and China. While they take advantage of the oil that the impertinent Hugo Chávez offers at a rock bottom price.

Next, the jails had to be emptied. It is a first step. Also the language moderated. Insults will be saved for better occasion. The generals believe that they have the situation under control with respect to the opposition. They calculate that their leading role is strengthened if they can bring a glass of milk, food and meat other than pork to the family table.

A dissidence with more a broader playing field could be a fertile ground for new proposals, in tune with the realities of the people. Even if they have no space in the media or public participation.

The government will continue to watch them with its bulldog face. But there are interesting loopholes. If 52 peaceful dissidents are released, going forward there would be no rational argument to imprison anyone just for writing or wanting to organize a political party.

The ball is in the opposition’s court. They will have to even the score. Right now they are losing 1 to 0.