The Political Burden of the Dictatorship after the Dictatorship / Miriam Celaya

Days ago, I had the opportunity to read a smart and funny article by Eugenio Yáñez, in which, based on the age of the highest representatives of the government, the writer was questioning the “youth” proclaimed by Castro 2 in his recent speech for the 60th anniversary of the assault on Moncada barracks. Almost at the end of that article, Yáñez successfully launches a judgment referring to the olive green gerontocracy still in power in Cuba: “Instead of trying to distort reality, it would be better to clear the way for new generations that will do it better, because it’s impossible to do it any worse”.

The extent of the case, as simple as it is accurate, brings to mind a debate a couple of years ago with several of my friends that focused on a discussion about who could be the alternative political actors we might consider for the presidency of a Cuba in transition. On that occasion, there were very interesting analyses around opposition figures and programs of the most diverse leanings and positions, including the dissident spectrum from the last part of the ’80s decade until today. The opinions of those debating were, of course, also very different and emotional at times.

I will not fall into the naïve temptation of retelling a version of that reunion here, or the viewpoints of each participant because, after all, it was not about trying to decide the Cuban transition in a simple dialogue among friends, nor does Cuba possess the necessary minimal conditions for freedom and democracy, political maturity or enough civility, even among the dissident ranks, to tolerate criticism or opinions that are different from their own evaluations. In fact, almost every figure carries within him the messiah virus or the belief that he eats the egg of absolute truth for breakfast every morning, and only the more honest ones, the best, have the ability to recognize the evil in their own hearts, and to keep it duly restrained and not allow it to expand and dominate them. Even the people seem to interpret the criticism of any leader or program as a divisive attempt. Often, people seem to need idols more than freedom itself.

But back to the question, the fact is that at that unique and unforgettable meeting attended by several intelligent and acute individuals, the idea that raised the most debate was that of a fellow member who closed the circle, declaring: “Anyone who is democratically elected and supports civil liberties conducive to the exercise of all human rights will do as president for me, since, if that were the case, we would be guaranteed the right to criticize him, to speak out against his administration, to demand, to force him to listen to demands and, within a reasonable period of a few years, to remove him from office in new elections if he doesn’t meet the voters’ expectations”.

I must confess that at that time I wasn’t 100% on board with his proposal, though I could understand he had made a good point. Maybe I was driven by distrust in imagining what the performance of certain shady characters would be when anointed with legitimate power leading the destiny of a nation in the turmoil of a transition that will undoubtedly be difficult. That prospect terrifies me still.

However, Yáñez’s article has made me think about the Cuban reality and once again taken me back to that memorable gathering where, as so often happens, a group of friends discussed the hypothetical future of a democratic Cuba. That friend and Yáñez are both right: the Castro regime has deliberately performed so badly that no one else could do it worse, not even the worst of the worst hidden kingpins we have in every sector of Cuban society. But, to elect “the wrong thing” so we won’t have the worst one, doesn’t sound to me like a good political sense.

Definitely, in the presence of a democratic election, I would not vote for just anyone. However, due to the stubbornness of the eternal Moncada octogenarian boys who cling to power, I can’t help but to recognize that any other option would be preferable, at least for the majority. The dictatorship has become the point of reference to such an extent of what a government should not be that it has sealed the evil within the fate of the Cuban people, even long after it’s gone. And so, paradoxically, it could still play a political role, in case it becomes indirectly responsible of an unfortunate future election of the transition that awaits us.

Translated by Norma Whiting

9 August 2013