There Are Differences / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, Havana,30 January 2015 — When considering the future development of the contacts between the Cuba and United States delegations who are brokering the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, profound differences between the two participating groups become evident.

While the North American delegation represents a democratic government, the Cuban one speaks for a totalitarian system. Thus, the requirements and points of view put forth by the Cuban negotiators are those of the government, rather than of the Cuban people.

Accustomed as they are to speaking with a single voice, the Cuban delegation makes use of the terms “sovereignty,” “independence,” “liberty” and “human rights,” warping these words to fit its own political and ideological interests, trying to force acceptance of their own narrow, dogmatic version, rather than that which is recognized internationally.

Thus, when referring to them, one speaks of something fictitious, for there is no true sovereignty, independence and liberty if every citizen is not sovereign, independent and free. This is nothing new: José Martí expressed this more than a century ago.

It is a farce to pretend that human rights are realized by sending personnel from healthcare and other professions to provide services in foreign countries, when it is a known fact that the majority of these services are paid-for by the recipient governments or by international organizations — and that the Cubans who provide these services are exploited like slave labor, with the Cuban government appropriating the majority percentage of the monies received. The ridiculousness of this claim is even more evident when one takes into account that it is precisely these professionals who do not have their citizen rights respected.

I could go into other questionable aspects of the Cuban regime, such as that the current Constitution was not the result of a constitutional congress in which all social actors participated, but rather was produced by a governmental commission created for this purpose, and (after the deed was done) presented for formal “approval”by the citizenry.

This in spite of the fact that the same Constitution, in Article 4, stipulates that “all power belongs to the working people, who exercise it by means of the Assemblies of Popular Power.”

But then, in utter contradiction to what is previously stated, Article 5 stipulates that “the Communist Party….is the leading authority of society and of the State….” and that the so-called “social” and “mass” bodies, known as non-governmental organizations, are in fact governmental organizations, established and directed by the Party and the Government, serving their purposes of control and political indoctrination.

But I think I have made my point with these three examples.

This whole totalitarian framework, constructed and reinforced during 56 years of absolute exercise of power, constitutes the main obstacle to the successful unfolding of the negotiations between the two countries. These talks will only truly move forward when this structure starts to be dismantled, both by the newly-emerging authorities themselves, convinced of the brake they represent, as well as — and primarily by — the pressure and demands of Cuban citizens.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison