Respect For Human Rights Is Guaranteed With Democratization / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Arresting a Lady in White in Cuba
Arresting a Lady in White in Cuba

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 21 March 2016 — Although there is a close relationship of interdependence between democracy and human rights, they are often treated as if they were something independent of the political system, when objectively only a fully democratic system can fully guarantee them.

A friend wrote me, totally correct, that in other countries whose governments have signed and ratified the Covenants on Human Rights, they are still violated in many ways because the political system did not guarantee their exercise and defense with laws, institutions and real democratic power, truly in the hands of the people.

It being legitimate to demand respect for human rights, in Cuba we could be very happy were the government, tomorrow, to ratify the international Covenants on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights, and even enshrine them in Cuban laws; but what would happen in practice?

The current political system would be incapable of enforcing them, so first there would have to be a change in the Constitution, its development and content, passing new laws on freedom of expression, association, labor and property, and even addressing  the philosophy of why and for what there is a police force.

The problem is how to achieve this process of democratization, with the essential differences within the opposition, the different thinking, including even among government officials who are aware of the need for changes in these directions.

This returns to the forefront a fundamental philosophical problem: there is a relationship of interdependence between means and ends. The means must be identical to those ends. We cannot achieve democracy by undemocratic means. Violent methods, or provocateurs of violence, have never brought such results. Such attempts have always ended up engendering new cycles of violence, when they don’t maintain the existing one.

The wars of independence and the intervention of the United States in 1898 resulted in a flawed democracy of strongmen, militarism and violence, whose most terrible, cruel and shameful episode was the “little war against blacks” in 1912. The revolution against Machado generated new violent cycles until a democratization process led to the Constitution of 1940, with participation of all political views, the elections of the same year, and the beginning of a period of democratic stability until the coup of 1952, which opened another cycle of violence.

Then, attempts to find a negotiated democratic solution were thwarted by the appearance on stage of “revolutionary violence.” Since then violence has prevailed, resulting in what we still have today: more violence to sustain what has been achieved in this way.

An example of which, I had yesterday, Sunday, March 20, the day Obama arrived. From the early hours a State Security official was in my house, dressed in plainclothes, and with great respect telling me that he would be with me until the afternoon, to make sure that I did not leave the house. House arrest for eight hours, with no reason and without the involvement of the justice system.

The only possible exit from the political, economic and social gridlock that is Cuba is to create an atmosphere of relaxation and harmony in the nation, with the support of all parties to take us to the establishment of an inclusive national dialogue, along with the restoration of fundamental freedoms.

Thus, would be created the conditions for a broad horizontal and free democratic debate that leads us not to an accounting of the past or to revenge, but to building together, from diversity and respect for differences, new legal institutions, comprehensively integrating human rights.

This would imply a new Constitution, approved by referendum; a new electoral law allowing multiparty democratic elections of all public offices; the establishment of a modern state of law with proper separation of powers and fully functional and informative transparency, under popular control, with municipal autonomy, participatory budgets and submission to referendum of laws that affect all citizens.

The humanist and supportive Democratic Republic, with full social justice, where there is room for all of us, would be achieved through a gradual process and not as an act of “democratic restitution.”

To achieve this will require that all parties assume full readiness for dialogue.