Should the Opposition Dialogue with the Cuban Government?

Left: Yes, because we don’t have the capacity to wage war. / vs / Right: I don’t criticize someone who wants to dialog, but I don’t dialog with murderers.
The moment in which thirty artists left the Ministry of Culture after meeting with Vice Minister Fernando Rojas for almost five hours. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 March 2021 — Since last November 27, when some thirty artists managed to force a meeting with the Vice Minister of Culture, Fernando Rojas, after the unprecedented demonstration of some 300 people before the ministry, the question has divided activists: should the Cuban opposition recognize the Government as an interlocutor in a dialogue that guides the country towards a transition to democracy?

The promise offered by Rojas that day was broken by the same authorities days later, refusing to recognize the conditions set by the artists, already organized as 27N (27th November). At the same time, State Security has not stopped monitoring and harassing independent journalists and activists in recent months.

Even so, that demonstration, organized in support of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), several of whose members had been staying in the group’s headquarters and on hunger strike for the freedom of rapper Denis Solís, and who on November 26 had been violently evicted from their headquarters, generated a new hope.

The last episode was the premiere of the song Patria y vida, on February 16, by the duo Gente de Zona, Yotuel Romero, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo and El Funky, whose motto has been endorsed by the main opposition organizations, within and off the island.

It is under the name of Patria y Vida, that the MSI launched a platform this March to convene a “national dialogue” with all actors in society, including the Government, and build a Cuba that represents “a safe home for all,” in addition to overcoming the serious crisis that the nation is suffering through “peaceful and civic solutions.”

However, not everyone agrees to include the government as a negotiating party.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, leader of the MSI, put the dilemma on the table, declaring to 14ymedio that “there cannot be a dialogue in Cuba without the systemic part, without the regime part,” but that this “has to be with character.” From an official account, the following day, the MSI clarified that “the Cuban government has never wanted to speak with Cubans” and that the dialogue proposal “does not include it.”

“This is a citizen dialogue to debate among ourselves the future of our country,” they pointed out.

In a press conference offered last Friday, Alcántara himself and other members of the MSI, Michel Matos, Iris Ruiz and Amaury Pacheco, expounded on the subject, clarifying that the Government would not be the main interlocutor.

“I don’t see any other way to transition towards a democratic rule of law other than by dialoguing at some point with the current Cuban totalitarian authorities,” said Matos, who recalled that, in other countries, “every time a dictatorship has ended it has been under the parameters of agreements, negotiations, road map protocols or a dialogue agenda, where an understanding is reached on a key point that involves the transition.”

“I have heard expressions like ’pack your bags and go’ directed towards the communists, and I ask if this is realistic,” he said. “The other alternative that remains to get out of such a terrible situation is one that we cannot afford and are unable to do, which is basically war.”

Similarly, Amaury Pacheco expressed: “As a civil society we have put dialogue on the table and the Government has backed down. This exchange is needed to have a program of how we are going to travel because the Communist Party is not going to pack their suitcases and leave. We have to plant conscious programs and let the public know them.”

Within the San Isidro Movement itself, one of the most forceful in rejecting the dialogue has been Maykel Osorbo, who in a live feed on his Facebook profile was very clear: “I do not criticize anyone who wants to dialogue, but I do not dialogue with murderers.”

Osorbo, one of the authors of the song Patria y vida, and who has suffered several arrests in recent weeks, believes that the right circumstances are not present and he puts himself as an example of being harmed by the repressive policy of a government with the whom he does not contemplate sitting down.

“I do not dialogue because my life is in danger. There is no dialogue with dictators. I say it from personal experience. They beat me every day, they harass me, they threaten me. With that violence they do not dialogue with me. We went to dialogue on January 27 and we all saw what happened,” he points out in reference to the day that the Minister of Culture, Alpidio Alonso, ended up slapping the protesters who approached asking for a conversation.

The artist also doubts that sittingdown with the regime is actually being considered as an option and indicates that the references to other sensibilities must refer to the opposition that he calls traditional, citing José Daniel Ferrer as an example.

Martha Beatriz Roque, who belongs to that traditional opposition, has also established her position through an article published on Cubanet in which she details other historical moments of calling for a national dialogue, as Oswaldo Payá proposed in his day with the initiative of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), which ended up being shipwrecked with the tragic death of its Payá, its founder.

“It has always been said that dialoguing with the dictatorship is the same as speaking with the deaf, without sign language. In fact, those who vote for dialogue, in some opposition circles and also in exile, have been called by the derogatory noun: ’dialogueros’,” says the politician and member of the Group of 75.

In her opinion, the public debates between defenders and detractors of the dialogue only benefit the Government, which sees the disunity among the opponents and so she believes that any difference should be aired in private, but above all proposes that it can be based on a premise to talk about dialogue , the only common point that in her opinion unites the opposition “and that should be the basis of any understanding: the freedom of political prisoners.”

Meanwhile, the harshest statements have come from exile. The influencer Alex Otaola has cried out against dialogue with a short and direct phrase: “You cannot dialogue with the repressor.”

In a video on his YouTube channel, the popular communicator mocks those who ask to sit down with the Government to start the process and accuses them of being collaborators of the regime. “Maduro has gained years in power due to the softness of Capriles, of this and the other, while Venezuelans continue to die,” he denounces.

Otaola considers that these calls to talk are cosmetic and the Government launches them to influence Washington by making it appear that it is willing to negotiate within the island. “With whom is this platform going to dialogue? Among all Cubans of all political currents, all thoughts … Smoke and mirrors, no more. You can not dialogue with dictators,” he says.


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