Between confrontation and dialogue / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 31 October 2014 – There has been a lot of talk lately of the presumed improvement in relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba. In both countries there are tons of supporters for two antagonistic positions, which in summary and without a desire to simplify, can be reduced to two terms: confrontation and dialog.

Rivers of ink and saliva have been spilled to argue both ways and the more reasons are put forward the further away the solution seems. The worst is when the passions lead to personal attacks and the dismissal of those who think differently. And so I renounce mentioning names here and refrain from appealing to disparaging epithets.

If I were forced to choose I would vote for dialog. I resist confrontation.

But it is not enough. We immediately have to respond to another question that introduces a new dilemma: an unconditional dialog or without conditions.

The General President has insisted that he is willing to sit at the table as long as he is treated equally or, and it’s the same thing, under the condition that his legitimacy is not questioned. And of course without being asked to renounce the “bedrock principles of the Revolution.”

What legitimacy are we talking about? If we refer to the number of countries with which the Cuban government maintains diplomatic relations, its presence in international organizations or its ability to dictate laws and enforce them across the length and breadth of the country, then we have no choice but to admit that the Cuban leaders enjoy a high level of legitimacy even though they are considered dictators, usurpers or repressors of their people, and that is very evident in lack of popular will expressed in free elections.

Is there a universal standard of legitimacy for governments or do various interpretations of democracy and human rights exist? Perhaps we will have to admit that a government can imprison its political opponents, violently repress peaceful activists, fail to sign or ratify international treaties on human rights, deny or prohibit the legitimate existence of an independent civil society, oblivious to the power transmission created by the protection of the only permitted party; denying their citizens participation in the management of the economy so solicitously offered to foreign investors and that everyone has to recognize them because they have reduced child mortality to first world levels and for maintaining a universal system of free education.

It is likely that once the biology performs its inexorable duty, it exponentially raises the possibilities of sitting down to talk

If the norm for measuring legitimacy could change at the will of those seeking to be recognized as legitimate, then everyone would be in this game, from the North Korean regime to Al Qaeda, and if we look in retrospect we would also have to accept the Pretoria of apartheid or the Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge, not moving beyond contemporary history.

But we are in Cuba and we’re talking about a government rigidly controlled by a highest leadership of octogenarians. Regardless of the promises of continuity made by those on the horizon as the relief team, what is most likely is that once biology performs its inexorable duty, it exponentially raises the possibilities of sitting down to talk.

Because none of those who are going to occupy the government or political offices at that time, it is understood, will be responsible for mass executions, or thoughtless seizures, or even feel guilty about the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968, because in that year, if they had been born, they were children or teenagers. Opportunists who applauded in order to rise? Yes, but this is an accusation that does not carry a life sentence.

I have not the slightest doubt that the most optimistic results arise from a dialog between the Cuban authorities and the now disunited and still weak civil society that could bear fruits comparable to Poland’s, to use a well-known example; still less if it is a dialog between the Cuban and American governments, in the absence of the independent civil society on the island and in exile.

I can bet that “the ruling party” is going to negotiate with ferocity for the best pieces of the pie, whose most appetizing ingredients are the guarantee to not be judged and the possibility of maintaining control over the successful sectors of the economy.

But I’m also sure that the path of confrontation—through maintaining the embargo, the inclusion of Cuba on the list of terrorist countries or the dismissal that assimilates the internal opposition into the “subversion financed from abroad”—only serves to consolidate the positions of the dictatorship both on the international and domestic scene.

I would prefer not to have to choose, but I don’t want to keep waiting, and I am not talking about the future of my children, but of my grandchildren.