What Will Happen in Cuba on April 19, 2018?

The current Cuban president, Raúl Castro, accompanied by his political dauphin, Miguel Díaz-Canel, during an event in the national Parliament. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Dagoberto Valdes, Pinar del Rio, 20 March 2018 — Just one month until April 19, 2018, the date chosen to end the mandate ofRaúl Castro, President of the Council of State and Ministers, many Cubans and friends of Cuba are asking ourselves what will happen in just 31 days. Nobody, not even the ones who are at the highest levels of power at this unprecedented moment, can know exactly what will happen, but predictions and expectations abound.

On the one hand, there are those who say that nothing is going to change and that everything will remain the same in an endless succession. In my opinion, the terms “nothing” and “everything” in politics, as in many other things, do not reflect the reality that is always changing. And this historical evolution in the waters of the river, always the same and always different, can not be stopped completely, even if the will and intentions are immobilized. Otherwise history would have stopped with each of the totalitarianisms, authoritarianisms or dictatorships and it has not happened that way.

On the other hand, there are those who say that everything is going to change in a single moment and they try to avoid a succession occurring within the same group of power. In my opinion, the same logic can be applied to this scenario. One of the most false myths of the political reality is that “everything” can change, the day that “everyone” goes out to make it happen and it would happen in “one” moment. Not even the most radical revolutions have happened like this. They come on by a telluric and deaf current. And they continue with many reminiscences and legacies of the old regime surviving after the change.

One month from this date, I will try to give my personal opinion, based not on assumptions or wishes, but on these facts:

  1. It is the first time in 60 years that we Cubans are asking ourselves what will be the name of the person who will become the representative of the State and the Government.
  2. It is the first time in 60 years that the positions of Head of State and Government and First Secretary of the Single Party will be divided between two individuals.
  3. It is the first time in 60 years that a civilian who has never been a military man will take over the leadership of the State and the Government, while a military man will continue, for three years, as the head of the Party.
  4. It is the first time in 60 years that the Head of State and Government will have a different surname and almost all foreign regulations with regards to relationships to Cuba, specifically reference “while” that surname remains in power.
  5. It is the first time in 60 years that the so-called “historical” generation, that is, the one that made the revolution, accepts a generational change by force majeure.

With all the respect that all the opinions deserve, I consider that these five realities alone are already, in themselves, a substantial change, although the discourse that we will listen to on the 19th, and the following days, will be one of total fidelity and continuity. These attitudes and totalitarian options have not given the expected results in the vast majority of cases, because they are disconnected from the reality in which people live.

Other comments that we hear in the public debate “on the streets” include:

  • Well, we’ve been waiting for 60 years and nothing has changed substantially.
  • All this change of position is true, but the person who comes will be a “puppet” and with the real power “behind” them.
  • The one “behind” will follow the “civic-military” power formed by the triad: Party-Army-Ministry of the Interior.
  • “Something” will have to change because the current “crisis” is simply unsustainable.
  • I think that:
  • To pass from “everything” has to change, to “something” has to change, is another reasonable change.
  • I wonder: If those who today can follow the “front,” what is the point of going “behind”?
  • How long can the people of the nation and the interlocutors of the international community wait to confirm that the person who has occupied the post of Head of State is a “symbolic” president?
  • How long can there be a president who is “symbolic,” assuming and signing, without responsibility or legitimacy, the difficult and traumatic reformist laws as, for example, the elimination of the so-called “double currency” or the closure or tender of unprofitable state companies?
  • In today’s real world, the “correlation of forces” in international relations has changed in a decisive way.
  • Governments and blocs are waiting for this generational change with very high expectations and proposals that should not be disregarded.
  • The subsidies of countries that were available to sustain the disaster of the Cuban economic model do not exist anymore.

That the people of the nation have expectations after April 19 in the midst of so much existential anxiety is very good and I will not be the one to kill those hopes, because although it is true that “high expectations equal great frustrations,” it is also true that Change has been possible if there had not been growing aspirations and “last” hopes.

That the international community has expectations and has postponed, until after April 19, its best positions for the Cuban people, waiting for structural changes, is very good and I am in favor of that, always. The advance of the conscience of the peoples reflected in free and democratic elections, gives me back the certainty that changes are possible, even if they are a reaction to the disastrous economic, social and above all anthropological results of the so-called “socialism of the 21st century.”

I think that after April 19, 2018 that underground river that has already been resurgent that prepare and condition a new stage in Cuba will continue.

I believe that after April 19, 2018, gradually and slowly, orderly and gradual transformations will occur that – if a violent rupture does not occur in the heights because in the lowlands it is impossible, God does not want either of the two scenarios – they will lead to a peaceful and growing transition as long as the “historical” generation can conclude its life cycle in a natural way. This has happened in many sister countries, why should Cuba have to be worse?

I believe that a healthy dialectical tension between order-continuity and changes-renewal, without excesses or shrillness, could be the effective engine to lead Cuba towards truly new times. At the end of the day, all the successful transitions for its people have been balancing in difficult equilibrium, “as on the razor’s edge” and therefore all the sane protagonists, have had to demand and give, in a give and take, with audacity and courage, serenity and patience, tolerance and firmness, all avoiding greater evils of violence and exclusions, avoiding tightening repressions and disorders that increase fear. And fear is always, by repression or turbulence, a bad companion along the way. The climate that we breathe and the life that we lead today, under a growing suffocating repression, does not lead anywhere, or perhaps it does: to a situation of excesses that, by getting out of hand, leads to violence and death. That must stop, for the good of Cuba.

I ask God, and the Virgin of Charity, our mother Cachita, the mambisa virgin, the protector of all Cubans, that Cuba can undertake and continue, from 19 April, its long and winding road to freedom, pluralism, inclusion and democracy.

I ask that the protagonists, all of them, above and below, who know that today is unsustainable, open their doors to citizen sovereignty, protect national sovereignty, maintain order and the gradualness of changes, avoiding all violence, repression and any exclusion between Cubans and Cubans which, I remind us, we all are.

And I am sure that Cuba will give the world an example of an orderly peaceful transition, without a single victim of any of the parties and with the contribution of all parties. Thus, we will be faithful to our best historical, cultural and ethical roots. That is what Varela and Martí wanted.

Dagoberto Valdés is director of the Centro de Estudios Convivencia (Coexistence Study Center), a Cuban think tank based in Pinar del Río. This article has previously been published in the magazine Coexistence and we reproduce it with the authorization of the author. 


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