A Debate for Democracy in Cuba: The End Does Not Justify the Means

Celaya believes that A debate that does not imitate the pathetic Trump vs Biden media show. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana | 2 October 2020 — Fresh off the networks, saturated today by the echoes of the unfortunate show (supposedly a debate) between United States presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and with their clothes still torn by the attacks of the always furious Trumpist pack – those worthy imitators of the purest Castro style who accept no other position other than unconditional support for their idol – I have made note of an article by colleague Reinaldo Escobar Casas that brings me back to what is really important on this side of the Florida Strait: a reality so overwhelming that it far exceeds the convenience of the triumph of one or another candidate in the US presidential elections on November 3rd.

In agreement with my colleague Escobar Casas, and as a Cuban residing in Cuba, I have no preference for any of the American candidates. It’s clear to me that neither one nor the other has a commitment to achieve democracy in Cuba beyond speeches and intentions for electoral purposes. It is not their responsibility to solve the pressing problems that suffocate Cubans from all areas of national life, of which successive US administrations are not the cause.

I am clear that neither one nor the other is committed to achieving democracy in Cuba, beyond speeches and intentions for electoral purposes

After 61 years of dictatorship and in the midst of the most serious crisis of the socioeconomic and political system established by force of voluntarism and repression, it would be naive to attribute the eventual collapse of the Castro regime to the good or bad will of an American president, without denying that the policies of that country, as the great power that it is, have some influence, not only on this limited and close geography and on the lives of its inhabitants, but also — for better and for worse — have a relevant impact throughout the world.

I absolutely agree with Escobar Casas when he declares the need for a debate that matters to us as Cubans, when he focuses his aspirations for matters to change in Cuba, for political disagreement to be decriminalized and for all of us to have the right to an opinion for or against those who govern us, and that, in the economic realm, those who are capable of producing the things we need in order to live are given the freedom to do it. This should be an inalienable direction for all of us who, through thick and thin, continue to push the wall of the Castro regime from inside and outside of Cuba, although we well know that, in light of the current reality of the Island, our aspirations for the moment are chimerical.

However, I cannot agree with Escobar in what seems to be the justification of the means to an end. In fact, the scenarios for exiting the Cuban crisis in the face of one or another U.S. policy are as opposite as the human and social costs that would arise from them.

In his article, Escobar welcomes equally the “strangulation” caused by a resurgence of sanctions as well as a “rapprochement” that forces the regime to change, since his priority — and I know he is sincere — is the prosperity and welfare of this country “where my children and my grandchildren will live for many years.” Personally, I will always opt for the least possible traumatic exit for Cubans, against the grain of being aware that in Cuba this variable seems less and less likely.

What moral authority aids us in subjecting others to the deficiencies that those of us who have some financial support to cope with the crisis don’t experience?

Let us take, then, two situations, A and B, where A would be the eventual triumph of Trump and, consequently, a fierce claw capable of suffocating the Castro regime’s tentacles and, incidentally, all Cubans who in some way depend on economic support, remittances, food packages, etc., which ultimately will always benefit, to some extent, the elite who receive the dividends. The question, then, would be: to what extent are we willing to sacrifice economic survival or to bear the cost of deprivation for ordinary Cubans in order to force change? Is it legal to assume chaos and human losses as the “collateral damage” necessary for these changes? What moral authority aids us in subjecting others to the deficiencies that those of us who have some financial support to cope with the crisis don’t experience?

And, taking it to a more extreme level, is there any guarantee that the dissident sectors, the opposition, the press and the independent civil society are safe from the worst repression in the extreme case of social chaos?

Furthermore, in a scenario of chaos and anarchy caused by famine and in the absence of guarantees and social tension, who would assume control and ensure a minimum social order? That possibility, which may now seem like a dramatic exaggeration, is still an almost tangible threat.

The other extreme, option B, would be the gradual, political and orderly transition that, despite everything, remains the most reasonable because it does not make use of Cubans as hostages on the road to democratization, but rather facilitates their insertion as economic actors and politicians of the changes, provided that this policy is implemented in a complete, intelligent and duly conditioned way, toward effective steps in the matter of human rights by the Castro leadership. This was the step that was omitted during the thaw of the Obama era and that contributed to the withdrawal of the regime.

The weak point, in the case of either A or B, is the absence of effective proposals and strengths in the opposition sectors, generally attentive — it is fair to admit — to the policies of the White House. There is no plan C or “Cuban proposal.” In this sense, it is worth reviewing recent statements by some of the so-called opposition leaders, where a common denominator is striking: they all seem to agree on what a US administration should do with regard to Cuba, but not one of them has their own plan to implement in any scenario that we may encounter, whether in the face of a policy of rapprochement or confrontation from the powerful northern neighbor.

Waiting continues to be the watchword in a scenario that, beyond our wills, keeps us tied down, as passive hostages of foreign policies

In short, everything leans towards eternal passivity or contemplation, waiting for two eventualities, neither of which will depend on the opposition’s effective actions: 1) Wait to see what the United States powers decide to do and 2) Wait to see how much the hierarchs of dictatorial power in Cuba are weakened from these policies. Waiting continues to be the watchword in a scenario that, beyond our wills, keeps us dependent, as passive hostages of foreign policies, to such an extent that a policy of suffocation may seem equally valuable as one of rapprochement, as long as it promotes changes that are not within our power to control. I couldn’t disagree more.

In the end, and as far as the subject is concerned, we urgently need a broad and inclusive national debate in Cuba in which the entire society participates and all interests are present, regardless of political or ideological constraints. A debate that does not imitate the pathetic Trump vs Biden media show, which we witnessed on September 30th. Because the best and worst we Cubans have is that much remains to be said here, and everything remains to be done, especially the transition to democracy. And it has been a dream held for so long and so pregnant with sacrifices that different means to achieve it cannot deliver the same result.

Translated by Norma Whiting


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