Why Doesn’t the Cuban Regime Dialogue With the Dissidence? / Ivan Garcia

Nicolas-Maduro-Henrique-Capriles-570x330Luis, retired military and supporter of the regime, has a few arguments to debate with several neighbors playing dominoes in the doorway of a bodega in the Havana neighborhood of Lawton.

The theme of the day is the dialog between the opposition and Nicolas Maduro’s government, broadcast on Thursday night on TeleSur. Among the players were professionals, unemployed, ex prisoners and retirees.

“When we see this type of face-to-face debate, one realizes we are living in total feudalism. Cuba hurts. Here we have a ton of problems that have accumulated over these 55 years. The government has no respect. The solution is to carry on: more taxes, prohibitions on private work, and raising the price of powdered milk. Why don’t they follow the example of Venezuela and sit down to talk with the dissidence,” asks Joel, a former teacher who now survives selling fritters on Calzada 10 de Octubre.

The ex-soldier Luis feels dislocated by the several ideological pirouettes of the Castros. Unrelentingly sexist and homophobic, these new times are an undecipherable code.

“Even I have my doubts. I fought in Angola. We were trained in Che’s theories not to cede an inch to the enemy (and he signs with his fingers). But now everything is a mess. The old faggots, that we used to censure, walk around kissing on every corner. The self-employed earn five times more than a state worker. And the worms are called señor. If the government is on the wrong path, say so loud and clear. We supporters have a few reasonable arguments to fire back,” says Luis, annoyed.

The dialogue table between the opposition and the government in Venezuela was a success for many in Cuba. Arnaldo, manager of a hard currency store, continued the debate until around two in the morning.

“I was amazed. I don’t not know if it was a blunder of the official censorship. But the next day on the street, people wondered why dissent in Cuba remains a stigma. As for me, the discourse of the Venezuelan opposition was striking. They spoke without shouting, with statistics showing that the failure of the economic  model and highly critical of Cuban interference in Venezuela,” said the manager.

Noel, a private taxi driver, believes that “if the pretension was to ridicule the Democratic Unity Table (MUD) with the discourse of the Chavistas. it backfired. Capriles and company had a deeper analysis and objectives than the government. Like in Cuba, the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) defended themselves by attacking and speaking ill of the capitalist past. They do not realize that what it’s about is the chaos of the present and how to try to solve it in the future.”

In a quick survey of the 11 people watching who watched the debate, 10 thought the opposition was superior. The best comments were for Guillermo Aveledo and Henrique Capriles.

“Those on the other side seemed like fascists. Frayed, with a mechanical discourse filled with dogmas like those of the Cuban Communist Party Talibans. The worst among the Chavista was the deputy Blanca Eekhout. She’s more fanatical and incoherent than Esteban Lazo, and that’s saying a lot,” commented a university student.

Although institutions and democracy in Venezuela have been taken by assault, with under-the-table privileges, populism and political cronyism among the PSUV comrades, in full retreat, the fact is that there is a legal opposition allowed to do battle in the political field.

Cuba is something else. Despite the efforts of CELAC (Central and Latin American Community) and the European Union patting the old leader on the back and seducing him with the red carpet treatment, it continues as the only country in the western hemisphere where dissidence is a state crime.

The opposition on the island is repressed with beatings and verbal lynchings. A law currently in effect, Law 88, allows the regime to imprison a dissident or free journalist for 20 years or more for writing a note the authorities deem harmful to their interests.

For Ana Maria, a professional who applauded Fidel Castro’s speeches for year, seeing a political dialogue like that in Venezuela on Telesur, allowed her to analyze things from a different perspective.

“It’s a dictatorship. No better or worse. It’s hard to accept that many of us Cubans have been wrong for too long. I lost my youth deluded, repeating slogans and accepting that others, without asking me my opinion, manipulated us at their will,” she confessed.

Eleven U.S. administrations, with controversial programs or others of dubious effectiveness such as Zunzuneo, have been unable to spread an original message and change the opinions of ordinary citizens, like the enduring repression, economic nonsense, rampant corruption, prohibitions of 3D movie rooms and the sale of cars at Ferrari prices, among others.

In these autocratic societies, you never know if an apparent reform will produce benefits or it will begin digging its own grave. It’s like walking on a minefield.

Iván García

Photo: Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela, shaking hands with Henrique Capriles, secretary-general of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). Madura greeted him without looking at his face, though Capriles looked at his, demonstrating and more correct and better behavior than the successor to Chavez. Taken from Noticias de Montreal.

15 April 2014