United in Diversity / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Rebeca

The Cuban crisis is advancing inexorably towards its climax for reasons that are economic, political and social as well as genetic. With each passing day the situation for most citizens — shortages, price rises, low salaries and pensions, lack of opportunity — becomes even more complicated. The “update of the model,” now codified into law, neither casts sufficient light on the tunnel’s darkness nor provides real solutions to the multiplicity of problems.

Faced with this impending reality, people from a variety of opposition camps have come together to discuss what might be the best way to achieve this necessary transition. Some feel the best way is through dialog with the government in order to achieve a greater degree of openness, which might be expanded over time. Others reject any sort of dialog in favor of direct public pressure. Still others are looking for a middle ground that might satisfy both parties and avoid violence. There might be other approaches as well. To say which is best poses a great risk, one I feel we need not take since doing so would only add fuel to the debate’s fire and complicate the current contradictions.

Perhaps it would be more convenient and intelligent to try to determine a set of demands to present to the authorities which are premised on bringing about real change. If there is a desire to seriously resolve the nation’s issues, there must be a basic shared platform on which all factions can agree in order to begin to take firm and effective steps forward.

Therefore, it is clear that the different factions must be recognized as negotiating partners, something that up till now has not happened due to the intransigence of the authorities, who consider themselves to be the country and the nation’sonly trustees, imbuing it with their ideology. Only when faced with a united opposition — one united in diversity, not in unanimity; one without fractures — will the government feel tempted to have a dialog without worrying about losing what little credibility it has left with certain sectors of the population.

The level of opposition is not reflected in the figures for election turnout or in the numbers of people who show up for mass demonstrations, which are simply by-products of an entrenched double standard, but rather in the silent voice of the majority of outraged citizens as it filters through our cities and towns. Experience over many years has shown that a fragmented opposition garners no attention.

The last approach of the government with highest leadership of the Cuban Catholic church, as the only interlocutor accepted for some very immediate problems demonstrates this. All of the initiatives should be well received and not just criticized, despite their limited reach, because they can serve to enlarge the spectrum of participation, demanding that the spaces be open to all equally. Nobody, by his own decision, should proclaim himself representative of all the citizens of the nation and pretend to be the only voice to listen to, rather it would be more intelligent to make oneself a bridge or a collection point for different views.

To aspire to a truly democratic country, the road to the transition should also be profoundly democratic. If it is not, we risk the danger of repeating the costly errors of the past, and in losing ourselves once again in the entanglement of the autocracy, intolerance and exclusion, something that none of the opposing viewpoints want, much less so, the majority of Cubans both within the country and beyond.

Translated by: Stephen Clark, Alex Vizcarra, Norman Valenzuela, and Carlos Maristany

September 26 2012