King Felipe VI: A Brave and Democratic Speech in Cuba

King Felipe VI of Spain speaking at a dinner in Cuba with Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel seated at left. (es-mb the epoch

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 14 November 2019 — It is possible that some think he should have gone further. It is an equally respectable position. But there is no doubt that the Spanish King Felipe VI has risen to the circumstances, and in his dinner speech before Cuba’s communist president Miguel Díaz-Canel, he offered a brave defense of democracy, noting that this system is the one that “best defends human rights.” And not satisfied with this, he added that “it is the Cuban people themselves who must decide on their future because changes in a country cannot be imposed.”

A very clear message, sincere, direct, timely and must have felt like a jug of cold water to Diaz-Canel at the dinner that the communist authorities had organized for the Spanish monarch with his wife, Queen Letizia. Even Raúl Castro from a distance, because he was not invited to dinner, must not have felt very comfortable with the speech.

The King has lived up to the moment.

Specifically, Felipe VI defended as “necessary the existence of representative institutions of all citizens so that all different preferences can be expressed” and added “to find in them adequate respect for the integrity of their rights, including the ability to express freely their ideas, freedom of association or assembly.” It is clear that this speech was not agreed to with the communists. They will have wanted to interpret what they want, but the message of the King has been clear, “evolution, adaptation and change are inevitable in the dynamics of events in history.”

Thus, after expressly saying that “Nothing is frozen in time, and whoever resists in its path loses the opportunity to collaborate in the design of that future that is already being born or, even more so, that it is already here,” he said, adding that “The future of the Cuban people must be elucidated by themselves” and that “the changes cannot be imposed, they must be born from internal dynamics.”

Attributing to the Cuban people the role of the agent driving the changes that the country needs, is to go against the flow of a regime that is attributes to itself a superior nature to direct the destiny of the Cubans. Magnificent, the King.

From the impeccable vision of the democratic experience of the monarchy in Spanish democracy, the King told Diaz-Canel and his communist court that “in the same way that a change that does not emanate from within the social forces and the politics of the country cannot succeed, it is equally true that change will not bring consensus and well-being if it does not represent the will of citizens.”

And at this point, Felipe VI came to propose to Díaz-Canel how these decisions for change have to be implemented, by expressly indicating before the heir of the Castro regime, the importance of “agreement, negotiation, consensus and reconciliation” as the foundations of political action, and gave as an example the experience of the Spanish transition to democracy and the 1978 constitution, bastions of the change registered in Spain after the disappearance of Franco.

Specifically, the King said that “from that constitution and their own history, the Spanish have learned that it is in democracy that human rights, freedom, dignity of people and citizens’ interests are best represented and defended.” Nothing to do with the Castroist constitution, an empty shell of communist ideology that takes away power and political rights from Cubans.

As a Democratic King, he said clearly that “the strength that democracy gives to its institutions is what allows the progress and well-being of the people and to facing the risks and challenges that will inevitably arise along the way.” He added a message that reminded many of those who heard that of John Paul II when he said, “May Cuba open itself to the world and may the world open itself to Cuba.”

Felipe VI was straight to the point, “currently no country can live in isolation and it is up to the authorities to give citizens the opportunity to travel and receive people from other countries. Citizens must access new technologies and have rules that allow the full development of creativity in all areas, from cultural creation to the generation of business initiatives.” In clear reference to the “regulated” — Cubans not allowed to leave the country — and the totalitarian monopoly of the State company Etecsa in communications.

Most clearly: an open and shut case. Expressly mentioning words like this before the Cuban communist leader justifies the trip, although some may think that references to political prisoners or the repression of the opponents that exists in Cuba were left out of the official discourse.  The King went on to conclude that, ” Spain wants to continue being part of the economic growth of Cuba and help generate opportunities, at which time it highlighted the work that Spanish entrepreneurs have been doing on the island despite having to overcome enormous difficulties.”

The King could have made a protocol speech, sentimental and of a general nature, referring to what Fraga Iribarne called “the blood ties that unite Spain and Cuba” and the common historical and cultural heritage. With that he would have had enough for an institutional discourse before the banquet. However, far from omitting these issues, certainly important, and even more on the eve of Havana’s 500th anniversary, the King spoke of democracy, freedom, human rights, pluralism, transition, change and respect for everyone’s opinions. Aspects that the Cuban communists should have felt like a shot.

The communist leader was not expected to reply to the King’s speech. But you already know. In Cuba everything is possible. This was not agreed either. So Díaz-Canel again directed his speech to the argument of “claiming its independence and rejecting interference on the road that he says the island has undertaken,” and added to that “on this path that we have chosen by our own will it is important to have the accompaniment of true friends in the world and the Spaniards are among them. We are today an example of what shared will and mutual respect can contribute to a solid relationship.”

And I add that neither elected, nor will, nor friends, nor example, nor anything. The case is not to shut up, and yes, keep in mind that 57 million euros is a crumb but can be used to pay the next term of the debt with the umpteenth Paris Club and take advantage of the visit to place Spain with Cuba in the attack on the US embargo is a short play that can be very expensive. You know, for the Castroists, anything goes.

Someone may think that the King fell short in his speech, that he did not go straight to the point and that he missed a great opportunity to denounce the Castroist stumbling blocks to the world.

For example, I would have liked some emotional and supportive reference to the thousands of Spaniards who, after 1959, had their property confiscated by the so-called revolution and were expelled from the country to a miserable existence at the end of their days. It would not have cost much. It is a pending issue, but involves reaching consensus positions not to the liking of all, allowing it to move forward. And in this case, the King’s speech goes further. Its impact in Havana will remain for posterity. It has not been a trip in vain.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.