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    December 17th, One Year On: Balance and Responsibility

    December 17th, One Year On: Balance and Responsibility / Convivencia
    Posted on December 14, 2015

    Coexistence Magazine, Pinar del Rio, Cuba

    Convivencia, Pinar del Rio, 20 November 2015 — December 17, 2014 opened,
    without a doubt, a new stage, a new phase in the recent history of Cuba:
    it was the announcement of the process of restoration of diplomatic
    relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States. Both
    leaders welcomed the mediation of Pope Francis and of the Canadian
    Government. On 20 July 20 and 14 August 2015 the respective flags were
    hoisted and the embassies re-opened. The first visit by a Secretary of
    State of the United States to Cuba in 70 years occurred.

    A year after this announcement we can make a preliminary assessment of
    what is seen and what is known so far:

    1. Diplomatic mechanisms have been created and the first agendas for the
    normalization process that is announced as “long and complex.” These
    agendas are organized from the least contentious to the most difficult
    issues, such as democracy and human rights, which are always on the
    table, according to statements from US officials.

    2. The US government has taken presidential measures that clearly show
    the will to change its policy towards Cuba. Some have considered these
    bold and positive, others excessive, others disproportionate, and others

    3. The government of Cuba has not reciprocated with the same agility and
    has not implemented measures proportionate to those of the United
    States. Some believe that “something” is changing [in Cuba], but that
    there is no correspondence [between the measures taken by both
    countries]; others believe that the slowness [in Cuba] casts doubt on
    the will for real change.

    4. The Cuban people, in general, welcomed the announcement with great
    expectations that have been deflated, to the point that, to some, it is
    a reasonable to wait, but to others they stampede to leave the country,
    fearing the disappearance of the Cuban Adjustment Act or a “closure.”
    Disappointed by frustrations reiterated for over 50 years, there is a
    part of the Cuban people who have lost the ability to believe and hope
    before any announced change: they are the skeptics and the indifferent.

    5. The Cuban people in general suffer directly from the grave situation
    of the national economy and the inability to meet basic needs, which has
    worsened to the point that it is looking increasingly like the 1990s
    [after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of its
    subsidies to Cuba], a terrible memory.

    6. The gap between those who suffer such hardships, who are the
    majority, and the few who have access to state businesses with foreign
    investment or private businesses with family investment, is increasingly
    visible and more convincing that a system of dubious “social justice” or
    rather, state paternalism, is perishing.

    7. The political system is facing a serious zone of conceptual
    turbulence where, on the one hand, there is a debate between the empty
    discourse that is increasingly removed from reality and, on the other
    hand and at the same time, that same government has decided to open
    itself to international markets and foreign investment in an attempt to
    recycle its state monopoly capitalism, without any real labor unions nor
    respect for other labor and social rights; a system so old, so inhumane
    and so obscene, that the “socialist” discourse itself denounces it. This
    type of turbulence is called by some the transition process and by
    others systemic destabilization.

    8. The opposition is also undergoing a process of conceptual turbulence
    and redefinition of methods and organizational structures. On the one
    hand, it maintains the necessary denunciation of the systematic
    violations of all human rights, especially the public repression of
    every Sunday [a weekly day of mass arrests of the Ladies in White and
    other activists].

    At the same time, the opposition is trying to respond with answers and
    policy proposals to the new challenges that the scenarios described
    above and others will present. In this turmoil, which some call a
    process of maturation — the defining of political and party roles and
    construction of consensual strategic agendas that respond, above all, to
    the needs of the nation — while others call this process
    diversification, and still others consider it disunity.

    9. The diversification of roles in Cuban civil society is another sign
    that this year all sectors of the nation have questioned themselves, and
    in some sense been dislocated, and that we are in the process of
    redefining strategies, missions, objectives and working methods, testing
    Cubans’ capacity for renewal, proposals and creativity.

    The incipient fabric of independent Cuban civil society is responding to
    these challenges and new scenarios, certainly with mistakes and delay,
    but surely with awareness that growth and social impact depend on two
    key factors: our commitment and service to the needs of the people, and
    our organizational skills and vision of the future to determined our
    specific missions and to focus on one of the many different roles that a
    prosperous and democratic nation needs.

    10. Another sign is the unequal and unfair struggle between the new
    state enterprises and the private and blockaded small businesses and
    entrepreneurs. Even without wholesale markets, permitted self-employment
    activities are ridiculously reduced to a “List of Licenses” that
    encompass medieval crafts and do not include professional and other
    production and service companies. Also, the self-employed do not enjoy
    the security of a legal framework and they are harassed and extorted by
    a host of corrupt state inspectors. This corruption is the seed of
    cronyism, extortion, gangsters and viral agents for the perpetration of
    a failed state. There is still time to reverse this degenerative process.

    11. It is clear and legitimate, it is necessary and very convenient,
    that some civil society groups will find their niche, their role and
    performance. This civic fabric will be a far more diverse civil society
    that serves the public. We can see that it is defining itself,
    increasingly, through the role of independent journalists and their
    blogs, agencies and media. Consensus building platforms for civil
    society are being defined. Opposition political parties are defining
    their own ideas, programs, statutes and actions of social impact.

    They have begun to organize partisan political platforms in search of
    coordinated agendas. They have begun to create systematic spaces of
    education in ethics and civics for the creation of plural thinking in
    present and future Cuba. Organizations in defense of human rights are
    consolidating national monitors, reports, and international efforts.
    Legal services and their independent organizations are consolidating as
    competent and professional advisors.

    Platforms to demand the release of all political prisoners, a general
    amnesty, ratification of the United Nations Covenants on Human Rights
    and a more committed peaceful civic activism through public
    demonstrations such as marches and national campaigns are being
    strengthened and publicized.

    No one should claim that their service is the only one and exclusive.
    Everyone is needed and enriches the nation. We need to recognize that
    all these roles and services are equally valid and necessary and could
    be a sign of the democratic identity of each person.

    12. Family, cultural, academic, political and other kinds of exchanges,
    although still asymmetrical, are an opportunity and a preview of the
    real normalization that will not be completed until not only are
    relations and free exchanges established between the governments, but
    also between the respective civil societies, and among the same and only
    nation that lives on the island and in the diaspora.

    13. Civil society is undoubtedly taking a step forward, defining its
    nature, ahead of the Cuban government: all of civil society has chosen,
    and sustains with its actions, the rejection of violence as a method of
    struggle and strict adherence to peaceful methods. Meanwhile, the Cuban
    government still uses, promotes or passively tolerates violent methods
    of repression. Acts of repudiation are a national disgrace that the
    Cuban authorities should not display before the world, for the good and
    prestige of Cuba. Acts of repudiation and repression must stop immediately.

    14. Civil society is broader than all this, and extends increasingly
    across diverse sectors of Cuban society, on the island and in the
    diaspora. The public debate is an inseparable part of the existence, the
    work and structures of civil society. New signs of increased civic roles
    are the ongoing and varied public debates through social networks among
    different parts of our society.

    Just to name some of the most recent, the cultural sector is fully
    engaged in the “Cremata case” and also in the proposed new Film Law; in
    the political opposition sector there is a debate between the various
    actors with regards to marches and other forms of demonstrating dissent;
    in the business world there is a growing controversy between
    opportunities for foreign investment and the [Cuban government] blockade
    on the entrepreneurial initiatives of Cubans; in the religious sector,
    there is a debate around the role of lay Catholics in the Cuban
    transition encouraged by the visit of Pope Francis and the upcoming
    celebration in February of the 30 year anniversary of the Cuban National
    Ecclesial Meeting (ENEC).

    These and many other diatribes are unmistakable signs of a struggle
    between the new and the decadent. Between change and inertia. Between
    old and new methods, even to achieve the same ends. They are not signs
    of decay or division. They are signs of growing pains and the gestation
    of the new times.

    We should not be scandalized by these debates, we must only look to
    their ethics and veracity. We are not discouraged by the diversification
    of the roles of Cuban civil society, it is the best sign that the
    fledgling democracy has come first to those who are most independent. It
    is just a preview of things to come. So we are attentive to the quality
    of these gestations because our democracy will be of the same quality.

    A year after the 17th of December (“17D”): We have new scenarios; the
    stage is already set; there are ever more secondary actors coming from
    the rest of the world to see what is happening and who will have a role
    in this work. However, the fundamental is still missing: bringing to the
    stage the script and the principal protagonists. That is, the essence of
    the work is lifting the Cuban state’s blockade on the freedoms and
    initiatives of its citizens and the total democratization of the nation.
    The principal protagonists are: the current government and authentic
    Cuban civil society. And the plot should be developed through inclusion,
    negotiation and national dialog.

    May the year 2016, which comes with new developments and opportunities,
    be a time when all Cubans assume the writing of this new national script
    and rise to the new stage so that no spurious, authoritarian or lone
    actor steals our work for a free, prosperous, responsible and happy nation.

    Pinar del Rio, November 20, 2015
    227th Birthday of Father Felix Varela

    Source: December 17th, One Year On: Balance and Responsibility /
    Convivencia | Translating Cuba –

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