The Opposition in Cuba: Calling Ourselves to Account / Antonio Rodiles

We are an active part of the transition
We are an active part of the transition

The result of the recent vote that gave Cuba a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, again puts into question the credibility of this institution, which has also given seats on the Council to countries such as China and Russia, constantly denounced for their lack of respect for fundamental human rights. China and Russia are two international powers that have to be considered on any international stage, so although questionable, there is a certain logic to their selection. Cuba, on the other hand, is a small bankrupt island without resources, but its regime has toiled intensely in the field of diplomacy for all these years, generating a network of influence and allies who respond only to their interests, ignoring any element of ethics.

After 54 years of almost total isolation, the Cuban opposition has had the opportunity to participate in international forums and to denounce the systematic violations of human rights on the island, as well as to express its needs for international solidarity and support. However, it is important to recognize that while our message has been heard with more volume and we have achieved greater prominence, we still have neither the strength nor the articulation to achieve a greater impact on international actors and organizations and, thus, to exercise more pressure on the totalitarian regime.

The reelection of Cuba to the Human Rights Council highlights the urgent need on the part of Cuban opposition groups — both inside and outside the island — to articulate more effective efforts at diplomacy in the international arena.

The Cuban opposition must begin to see itself as a political force, which means that it cannot simply be a source of complaints. This leap requires a drastic change that obliges us to analyze, deeply and honestly, our strengths and weaknesses.

One of our main shortcomings is the lack of professionalism and political vision, something we must begin to overcome despite living under the longest and most devastating dictatorship in the hemisphere. Without this projection, it will be impossible to reach broader sectors of society which, although tired of the outrages, sit on the sidelines waiting for more favorable scenarios that will permit them to express their political preferences and to identify themselves with a specific group.

The role of the exile should be very active as they are an essential part of the nation. Above all, the exile must open their senses to objectively perceive the reality in which we live on the island. Without a clear diagnosis and vision, and lacking an anchor in today’s reality, the result will be failure. The Cuba of 2013 is not even the Cuba of three years ago.

To maintain that a social explosion will lead us magically to democracy has been counterproductive for decades and diminishes the prominence and support for projects that could generate the dynamics for a democratic future for the nation.

The exile is fundamental for transmitting to us a vision of contemporary societies and encouraging our growth toward a modern and dynamic opposition. If, instead, it encourages complacency and conditional or manipulated support for specific groups that respond to sectarian interests or visions, we will then, to a large extent, continue to repeat the same stagnant pattern of the regime.

To generate false expectation with manipulated figures and unconvincing scenarios could be very damaging, not only for our internal dynamics, but for the credibility of the opposition movement abroad.

That someone should call themselves the spokesperson for the entire opposition, or promote a certain group as the most important or active, shows a political immaturity and only helps to generate friction and sterile competition. No one in Cuba today has the authority, nor the reach to the opposition, nor to society, to call themselves the spokesperson of the opposition. No group has the reach to proclaim themselves as the essential actor of change. Whoever sends such a signal, is simply wrong or lying.

Cuban society has begun to shake off a disastrous regime, but we find ourselves in a still emerging moment, which is never a sign of weakness. Many of the actors in the transition are about to appear, and it will be a great surprise when some Cubans who are currently on the border of the so-called “gray zone,” break out on the political scene and play more significant roles than many of us who today work from the opposition.

The opposition must go through a process of professionalization, reach a sharper sense of politics, and have the human capital capable of competing and projecting governance options distinct from the regime which has caused the national disaster, but which has all the means and power to transmute to an authoritarian capitalism.

The honest debate on fundamental issues cannot wait any longer, we must open an exchange from the civility that stimulates the growth of diverse ideas and visions of another Cuba that we want to construct. To remain silent for the sake of an archaic and hidebound vision of unity is too damaging. Any process of democratic maturity implies questioning political capabilities, legitimacy and effectiveness in thought and action, because many of the strategies offered as engines of change are nothing more than old desires, fantasies and fetishes.

The challenge today is for a new thinking to take hold among the Cuban opposition, a thinking born in the current century, within a world of networks with novel hierarchical and dynamic structures, where creativity, knowledge and information set the standard, leaving aside personalities and epics.

Those who do not recognize, within certain sectors of Cuban society — such as professionals, artists, intellectuals and activists — the principal actors of the changes, are simply dreaming within the same formula of a “triumphant Revolution” with thousands of citizens welcoming the coming of a new Messiah.

If we want concrete results, our reading of reality should be as accurate as possible. If we do not develop acuity and effectiveness in the field of politics, we will remain complainers.

The democratization of Cuba will cease to be a chimera when we systematically uproot the spaces of a power that insists on not thinking of us as political actors.

13 November 2013