Reform without Freedom / Dimas Castellanos

The difficulty in understating what is happening in Cuba in the area of social change relates to the peculiarities of the current economic reforms. While the Guidelines approved by the VI Communist Party Congress have begun to be implemented, the government remains stuck in other areas, without which it is impossible to get results. This contradiction, which applies to the whole group of Guidelines, shows up particularly in the area of international relations.

Due to the systemic nature of social phenomena, any manifestation of the multiple contradictions contained in the approved Guidelines will be sufficient to lead to failure unless the rules of the game are first changed. I will refer to only two of them: 1- the need for financing and 2- the interest of the workers.

The first, because of the level of deterioration, obsolescence and destruction of the means of production in productive sectors, from agriculture and fishing to industry, requires an amount of investment that the Cuban state by itself cannot manage.

Without discounting the ideological solidarity of the Venezuelan government with Cuba, the great world-level financial centers demand democratic changes in Cuba as a prerequisite for the needed financial support. Among these are the European Union and the United States.

This shows the need for relaunching an internal human rights and civil liberties policy aimed at improving conditions for Cubans and, at the same time, changing Cuba’s image in this respect. This is what was achieved, partially, by the freeing of the political prisoners and the approval of the Guidelines. In addition to the insufficiency of these two measures, the decision to keep strict control over all dissident activities inside the country has led to a spiral of repression whose result conflicts with the need for external financing.

In the end, just before the suspension of the European Union’s Commom Position and the Carter visit to Havana as an indication of the beginning of a conversation with the neighbor to the North, the repressive internal policies have once again removed the possibility of external financing. As a result, Europe maintains its common position and the United States applauds the changes but considers them insufficient.

The other means of financing, insufficient due to the greatness of the needs but still considerable, is the possibility of allowing Cubans to participate as business owners in the changes that are taking place, so that part of the remittances from abroad are converted into capital. But this requires a substantial change in the totalitarian mentality of Father State, who insists that Cubans, inside or outside the country, only participate in what he decides and in the way he deems best.

The government wants domestic calm for the changes, but the decision to implement changes having been made at such a late date makes this impossible. So the alternatives are to permit a certain freedom of opinion, which the country needs for these very changes to occur, or to continue repression of everyone who thinks differently.

What is going to happen? I don’t think anyone can predict this without a high margin of error, but reflecting on some issues might help. In the first place, the inertia has been broken and the government cannot or has few possibilities of going back due to the level of social disagreement and the changes that are taking place outside the control of the state in international relations as well as internally.

All roads lead through the gradual implementation of human rights but, for this, interest in retaining the model that brought about the current state must be put in the background, to be judged by history, which will either praise it or denounce it depending on the option taken.

Translated by S.Solá

June 17 2011