What Can the Opposition Offer to Cubans? / Juan Juan Almeida

Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, voting unanimously, as it virtually always does.

Juan Juan Almeida, 9 November 2015 — Cuba is a country where polemics or its relative, debate, is the daily bread of artists, private entrepreneurs and intellectuals; an island where the majority of the young population are assured of being poor or having no possibility of fulfilling their dreams; a nation where the average professional suffers from a ridiculous salary; and a State where discontent between the politicians and the military is worrisome. Still, the opposition, which works for freedom and the right to establish a democratic government, has been incapable of building a plausible alternative.

Where exactly does our opposition find itself in relation to the other components of the Regime?

The truth sometimes hurts; but hiding it can bring sorrow. I understand that being marginalized and repressed for so long without pity makes it difficult for many in the opposition to accept that this isn’t the moment to exclude those who have been excluded, but to reconcile and try to cooperate with all the social groups.

I don’t doubt the eagerness or the day-to-day need for mass actions, but being the fact of seeing “securities” (State Security agents) everywhere and having to constantly be ready to defend yourself from being infiltrated by State Security makes them easily fall prey to doubt, internal disputes, the political sin of disconnecting from the people, and the clear lack of the power to put out calls for action.

In the present circumstances, being a dissident and not fighting to be in the National Assembly of People Power, they allege that they “don’t want to play the Government’s game.” I acknowledge that many may like this expression; it arouses curiosity and fascination. But today, it’s a weak statement.

We know that antagonism, in times when anything other than what is voted on is considered violence, is more difficult than war and demands new strategies.

Obviously, social pressure on the Government will increase in parallel to economic growth for Cubans. So instead of predicting both the collapse or the overthrow of the present authoritarian regime, it’s preferable to think about a gradual process of erosion, and to have an accurate and objective analysis of the growing deterioration of relationships inside the governing clan.

Let’s be realistic. What can the internal Cuban opposition offer to those inside Cuba, besides political debate, the need to improve working conditions, schools, housing, health, etc.?

Only confidence. And for that it’s essential to fight to occupy spaces in society and in the parliament, in order to, from the inside, be able to dispute the legitimacy of the governing group.

In addition, among other things, to try, to come and approach the leaders of stone; participate in the debates organized by young, fashionable teachers (in principle, free from suspicion) in places like “El Hueco del Instituto de Periodismo,* about which a well-known professor at the Higher Art Institute says:

“They are important meetings because you hear the judgment of the son who counsels the father, the suggestions of the young who claim to know more than the old, and the incredible proposals of one sparkling part of the people who, by being irreverent, allow themselves to condemn even the ruler himself.

* “El Hueco” (the hole) is a space at the Havana International Institute of Journalism. It’s surrounded by trees on a patio at the back of the school. Every 15 days a group of young trova musicians get together with Ireno Garcia, a Cuban singer, to promote trova music.

Translated by Regina Anavy