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
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 –