Exclusion as a policy / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso

The Cuban flag serves as a symbol of the nation (14ymedio)
The Cuban flag serves as a symbol of the nation (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Dámaso, Havana, May 17 2015 – The Cuban government, since it seized power on January 1959, has maintained an authoritarian and exclusive approach to politics. Patriots, Cubans and citizens are considerations that have only been extended to those who unconditionally support the establishment. Those who do not or who simply criticize it are deemed unpatriotic, traitors, and anti-socials.

This system is primitive in its simplicity, but it has been useful. This absurd and unnatural positioning has been applied to everything: democracy, liberty, human rights, unity, opposition and many other terms have been redefined according to the ideological and political interests of those who govern, giving the impression that the Island exists in an unreal political and geographical space, outside of planet Earth.

Difference has never been accepted; instead it has been repressed: a sad example is that of the so-called Military Units to Aid Protection or UMAPs (Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Producción), those camps where thousands of citizens were forced into labor because of their religion, sexual preferences, fashion choices, or rejection of the authorities.

Only a few years ago, more for circumstantial political convenience than humanitarianism, different religious and sexual preferences were officially accepted, although in day-to-day practice, they continue to be regarded with reticence by a large part of the authorities. However, never have ideological and political differences been accepted, according to authorities, “due to the need to maintain national unity in the face of the enemy’s aggressions.”

Lately, in line with the atmosphere of dialogue between the governments of Cuba and the United States, although neither the aggressive language nor the violence have stopped, some topics regarded as taboo for many years have been put on the table. That of civil society, which had been banished from official discourse, as well as that of democracy and human rights are now very much present. Of course, it could not be any other way, “our civil society” is now spoken of, and for some time now “our democracy” and “the human rights which we defend” are pronounced. They seem to be the government’s private property, which, ironically, it has always frowned upon. Once again, exclusion reveals itself.

To attempt, as is the case today, to internationally legitimize governmental organizations as the only members of Cuban civil society is aberrant

There is only one civil society and it belongs to the country, it includes as many organizations and associations that support the government as it does those that question it, reject it or simply are not interested in politics and are dedicated to issues of ecology, religion, art, and others. To attempt, as is the case today, to internationally legitimize governmental organizations as the only members of Cuban civil society is aberrant.

The issue is not founded upon rejecting current organizations because they support the government, but because they are bodies of the same, which organizes, directs, controls, and finances them. Nobody accepts that they, with what their members may be able to contribute, can sustain themselves economically, maintain their bulky bureaucratic apparatuses, premises, transportation, defray intense propaganda campaigns and travel costs, organize and hold meetings, workshops, and even congresses, with the participation of dozens of foreign invitees, for whom all travel expenses are paid.

The Cuban nation is also only one, despite the authorities’ claims of owning it, taking into consideration only their supporters and excluding everyone else.

What’s even worse is that this governmental malpractice, perhaps due to having lived under its influence for too many years, has been adopted by some members of the opposition who not only apply it to the authorities but also to those who, within their own ranks, do not share their political opinions, not taking into consideration the serious injuries that doing so inflicts on themselves and, more importantly, on the opposition and, as a result, on Cuba. Today, we must do whatever it takes; leave personal differences aside and search for unity in order to save the country. There needs to be a real and responsible unity of all Cubans, regardless of how they think and without exclusion, for the good of the nation.

This month, we Cubans remember two important dates: May 19, the 120th anniversary of José Martí’s fall in combat, and May 20, which marks 113 years since the foundation of the Republic. In all of Cuba’s history, no one has been more inclusive than the Apostle, as José Martí is called among us. His thought, “the homeland is the fortune of all, and the pain of all, and skies for all, but no one’s fief or chaplaincy” and his dream of “a nation with all and for the good of all” still constitute matters unresolved. Let us dedicate our best efforts to their attainment.

Translated by Fernando Fornaris