Should foreign leaders meet with civil society when they visit Cuba? / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 11 May 2015 — The arrival in Cuba of French President Francois Hollande has fueled the controversy about whether the presidents and other foreign leaders visiting the island should meet with representatives of civil society. The debate has intensified since it was announced that the agenda of the French President, Francois Hollande, on Cuban soil includes only a meeting with Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino as representative of civil society.

Manual Cuesta Morua, Coordinator of Platform for a New Country: “Civil society actors are the most legitimate interlocutors to express the concerns and demands of the population.”


Luis Morlote, President of the Hermanos Saiz Association (Saiz Brothers Association): “The Cuban Revolutionary delegation, the true civil society (…) we cannot be in the same space (…) as a supposed civil society (…) that is paid and manipulated.”

Other presidents and international leaders who have visited the country in recent years have also chosen not to have contact with opponents and independent activists. The argument for this decision lies in not offending their hosts and trying to remove obstacles from the path of understanding with the Cuban government. Meanwhile, the authorities of the Island themselves do not recognize the legitimacy of these independent groups.

For their part, activists argue that representatives of the Cuban government, when they travel abroad, receive and meet with politicians who belong to the opposition in their respective countries and also with leaders of civil society in other nations. They also complain that an exclusively official agenda will never let the visitors approach the real problems of the country, and will give them a skewed vision of Cuban reality.

Contact with civil society: Yes or no? It seems to be one of the questions that is most difficult to answer for those considering a trip to Cuba.