Why Can’t Cubans Have a Civil Discussion? / Ivan Garcia

Second and third from R. are Manuel Cuesta Morua and Laritza Diversent -- see more details at the bottom of the post.
Second and third from R. are Cuban Human Rights Activists Manuel Cuesta Morua and Laritza Diversent — see more details at the bottom of the post.

Ivan Garcia, 7 May 2015 — The harm caused to Cubans by the military dictatorship is anthropological. We have an economy that has tanked, a fourth-world infrastructure and salaries that are a bad joke.

Chances are that we will eventually recover from the economic disaster but it will take two or more generations to overcome the damage done to ethics and civic values. The ideological madhouse Fidel Castro created in January 1959 has polarized society.

The regime has divided families and exacerbated differences. It has criminalized political differences while the special services and Communist Party propaganda have turned repression into an art form.

Among its strategies are acts of repudiation. These are basically verbal lynchings designed to suppress the opposition through the use of civilians and paramilitaries disguised as students and workers.

Cuba is a nation governed from the top down. Ordinary people do not have mechanisms that might allow them alter their circumstances. A party membership card and unconditional loyalty have become a kind of passport, allowing a person to climb the state’s ladder of success.

Twenty-five years ago a commitment to the revolution was rewarded with a television, an apartment or a week’s vacation at the beach. However, the ongoing economic crisis that has plagued the island since 1990 has drained the state’s coffers and eliminated material incentives for the most loyal workers and employees.

Now governing is not so easy for the Castros. Their narrative no longer appeals to large  segments of the population. Fifty-six years of continuous rule has led to exhaustion and economic disaster has created a breach in society.

Although people now feel free to express their opinions on the streets without fear, the official strategy is to disparage dissidents and intimidate Afro-Cubans.

The Castro regime has been successful at isolating the opposition in spite of the fact that dissidents’ statements have been in tune with popular opinion. Unfortunately, the opposition has not been able to capitalize on the frustrations of the population.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the most reasonable solution would have been for Fidel Castro to sit down with his opponents and work out a joint solution.

But Fidel is not genetically predisposed to tolerate disagreement. Instead, he chose to dig in. What is despicable is not that he mortgaged Cuba’s future; it is that he has used the intelligentsia and related sectors in his confrontation with Cuba’s dissidents.

Neither potato harvests nor milk production will be increased by isolating our compatriots who hold different political positions. The bureaucracy and criminal cartels imbedded in state institutions will not disappear by intoning stanzas from genocidal anthems extolling the use of machetes.

In the peace of quiet of their own homes these people — transformed into weapons of moral destruction — will try to see that refrigerators remain empty and the future remains a question mark.

Behaving like gangsters will not improve the erratic economic performance of a failed system or put an end to material shortages. The solution to the island’s structural and political problems will only be resolved through dialogue.

The statement by Luis Morlote, a spokesperson for artists and writers, that “we as a civil society are defending what is ours, so we cannot share the same space as dissidents” is at best unfortunate.

What will they do with opponents? Ship them to an outpost on Turquino Peak? And when Castro supporters come to share the opinions of dissidents and independent journalists, what are they going to do? Run away? Ask permission to sit next to us on a bus or in a taxi?

How will the regime resolve disagreements? With imprisonment, exile, beatings and extrajudicial assassinations? There is still time to redesign the current repressive system and replace aggression with a handshake and an exchange of views. 

Irascible activists, like those the Cuban government sent to the recent Summit of the Americas in Panama, could be repulsed by the prospect of sitting down with “mercenaries” who snap photos with Che’s “murderer.” Similarly, there are dissidents who would rather dine with the Borgias than have a chat with representatives of the regime.

Everyone is in his own trench, but the reality is that the problems that affect all Cubans remain unresolved.

Photo: On Friday April 10, 2015, during the celebration of the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama, the presidents of the United States, Costa Rica and Uruguay met behind closed doors with a group of human rights activists from several Latin American countries. Among them were two Cubans: the independent attorney Laritza Diversent, and politician and academic Manuel Cuesta Morua, both Afro-Cuban. From La Nación, Venezuela.