The Government We Need / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana. 2 August 2015 — In light of the government’s refusal to dialog with the nonviolent opposition, the latter should start a discussion within itself, an exercise unfamiliar to Cubans. Instead, we are accustomed to extremes ranging from the consistent unanimity of our parliamentary sessions, to the commotion of a “disqualifying”* act of repudiation.

Change – gradual or drastic – is the possibility of change in the roles of power and the government is not interested. But society needs all its actors, whether they are dissidents or government supporters. One must be blind not to realize that Cuba is on the road to change. So for starters, our government should uphold its own laws that it disobeys time and time again when they are not in keeping with its interests. This would be just a beginning. However, as we already know, the authorities are not interested in what would follow. The experiences of Eastern Europe are still fresh in their minds.

The Cuban government behaves ­– if not by decree or law, certainly in deed – as if it rules by divine right. It bases its authority on a form of anti-imperialism that on many occasions turns into anti-Americanism. Despite all the anti-imperialist warmongering and siege mentality indoctrination we have been subjected to for more than half a century, it was no match for the Cuban people’s jubilation upon the announcement of the process of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States.

To speak of civil society in Cuba leads almost obligatorily to the dissidence, civic institutions that in other countries would be self-governing are subordinated to the state. According to this type of Socialism “we all support,” the only civic institutions are those recognized — and for the most part funded — by the government. Non-governmental organizations, especially those espousing independent political viewpoints, do not count.

Whether it is dissidents, government backers voicing criticisms, advocates for an independent civil society, or the “trusted opposition,” these groups highlight the existence of political pluralism in a country that is intended as a monolithic unit. Every individual is diverse and complex and if people don’t unite on issues far more simple than politics, it cannot be expected that a single political party could represent the interests of all its citizens over a timespan as long as five decades.

Cuba’s so-called “trusted opposition” is part of a larger ensemble that includes the genuine opposition. Clearly some of the more active and interesting members of this “trusted opposition” voice a type of radical nationalism more akin to the 19th century, not to this era in which national frontiers are blurred, among other reasons because of the emergence of globalization and a growing international consensus on protecting the environment, the eradication of poverty, and the marginalization of whole groups of people.

I do not support Cuba’s annexation to the United States, but if an annexationist** movement were to exist on the island, the level of support that it or any other political movement enjoys should be decided at the ballot box. Only the use of violence and discrimination in all its forms must be excluded from the national scene. Despite all the sloganeering to the contrary, Cuba is indeed moving towards a pluralistic future and it is not healthy if the government or the opposition flout the law.

By airing grievances before the authorities or the public, Cuban citizens are actually voicing their hopelessness in regards to what they expect from their government, which is the embodiment of the political system itself. Therefore it is absurd to think that Cubans will not switch ideologies, or “come out of the ideological closet” once we enjoy freedom and access to information. We will represent a wide spectrum – ranging from Christian democracy to the aforementioned annexationist movement – while never feeling any less patriotic than the most devoted member of the Communist Party.

It will be very difficult to ask for decency from an endogamous group that many years ago turned itself into the government and whose players defend their power at all costs. In their long manipulation of both information and nationalistic sentiments, we have inverted the concept of the presidency and the president. Therefore, instead of wasting time debating the limits of the “trusted opposition,” and consequently of the “other opposition” as well, we should begin to use the term “trusted government” to define what Cubans really need, a government we can trust based on the rule of law.

Translator’s Notes:
* The regime commonly uses the term “disqualified” towards its opponents, as a way of completely dismissing them and their opinions, a strong assertion that they do not even have the right to speak. For example, in this post Yoani Sanchez is told: “You have transgressed all the limits… This totally disqualifies you for dialog with Cuban authorities.”
** Historians estimate that during the last half of the 19th century, Cuba’s political class was divided into three equal parts: one third strived for more autonomy for the island while securing its place as an overseas province of Spain, another third fought for Cuba’s absolute independence, and the last third wanted to apply for U.S. statehood. The latter were known as “annexationists.” The current Cuban regime often dismisses dissidents with this term, which it considers pejorative.

Translated by JoséBadué