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    Cuban Dissidents in Western Democrats’ Selfies

    Cuban Dissidents in Western Democrats’ Selfies / Iván García
    Posted on March 12, 2016

    After leaving mass at St. Rita of Casia Church in Miramar, members of
    the Ladies in White gather a few meters from the church at Ghandi Park
    under a banner that reads, “TodosMarchamos” (We All March). The have
    been coming here for more than forty-four consecutive Sundays and their
    peaceful protests almost always end in assaults and arrests. From the
    New York Times.

    Ivan Garcia, 7 March 2016 — Between repression by the regime and the
    disdain of democratic governments, peaceful opposition in Cuba is paying
    too high a price for its shortcomings and lack of popular support. But
    let us not forget that they are victims, not the ones responsible for
    our national disaster.

    The best screenwriters are undeniably good at turning villains into
    saints and can very discretely upend the ethical values of their readers
    and viewers.

    Even those who never run a red light are pained to see criminals like
    Vito Corleone in The Godfather or Pablo Escobar in a Colombian
    mini-series caught and crushed by law enforcement.

    The moral reversal that leads an audience to applaud when a bank robber
    escapes with the money in a Hollywood film is applicable to political
    dramas as well.
    I find it hard to believe that François Hollande or Barack Obama,
    presidents of stable democracies, are thrilled at the prospect of
    sitting down with a consummate autocrat like Raul Castro.

    The government of the Castro brothers has all the ingredients of a true
    dictatorship. Cuba is the only country in the concert of western nations
    that outlaws independent political parties and non-governmental media
    outlets.

    Let’s get serious. While economic strain will always be better than
    sanctions, one cannot ignore certain basic truths. Cuba is no El Dorado
    when it comes to business. The country lacks an independent judiciary
    and a regulatory framework, essential elements for local entrepreneurs.
    The domestic market is also small and has limited purchasing power.

    The game plan could be a bit more subtle. The goal of this political
    chess match is to dismantle the Castro’s economic and ideological
    madhouse with a high-profile strategy.

    But leaders of democratic countries should not sidestep Cuba’s
    opposition figures, much less take selfies with them in back rooms just
    to appear politically correct.

    The Castros are not the movie’s good guys. They are part of an
    entrenched gang that confuses democracy with personal loyalty. The
    failure of the revolution, the inefficiency of the system and material
    hardships were not caused by the opposition, none of whom hold any
    official positions.

    I understand that one must negotiate with those in power. And the
    Castros have almost absolute control in Cuba. But not listening with
    your own ears to those who are being repressed is a huge political
    blunder for those who present themselves as democrats.

    And that is what is happening. Since the restoration of diplomatic
    relations on December 17, numerous important American politicians and
    officials have visited Havana. Very few of them, however, have met with
    any dissidents or, if they have, they have spoken only with that segment
    of the opposition that approves of change.

    They have always been last minute meetings involving coffee and
    ambiguous speeches. They end with an official looking at his watch, then
    quickly saying goodbye lest he miss his flight. This pattern could be
    observed on August 14, 2015 after the opening of the US embassy in Cuba.

    The Department of State has not extended invitations to any dissidents
    or independent journalists. The one previous meeting was brief. When it
    was time for the batboys to gather up the equipment and photos were
    being taken — Cuban dissidents love to have their pictures taken — the
    talk turned to trivial issues.

    It is not known if Barack Obama or the American embassy has scheduled
    any meetings with opposition figures or independent journalists during
    the upcoming presidential visit, scheduled for March 21 and 22.

    The Cuban dissident movement is not a virtuous wasteland. Quite the
    opposite. Though marginalized, beaten and censured, its members continue
    to pound their fist on the table with authority. They do not, however,
    have an effective strategy for attracting followers from the ranks of
    ordinary Cubans.

    They walk through the streets as though invisible. Their lobbying
    efforts are directed overseas. They have not been able to engage or
    enlist their neighbors to their cause. And communitarian, political
    initiatives such as Candidates for Change, an effort to promote
    democracy through participation in parliamentary elections, is looked
    down upon by some dissident leaders.

    Is there disagreement? Yes, there is. A reasonable approach in such a
    contentious situation would be to come up with a common platform in
    which various groups or factions can agree on at most three or four
    common points.

    This was the approach tried in 1996 by the Cuban Council and more
    recently in Venezuela by the Unity Roundtable for Democratic Action. But
    the towering egos of the dissidents always gets in the way of their good
    intentions.

    Are they receiving money from US government foundations? Certainly.
    Engaging in political acitivism takes money. The strategy should be one
    of transparency, democracy within organizations and accountability.

    Purists might see this as interference by a foreign government in the
    internal affairs of a sovereign state. But I would assure them that not
    one cent has been spent on the purchase of arms, the preparation of
    Molotov cocktails or for drafting a plan to assault a military barracks,
    as Fidel Castro did on July26, 1953.

    The funds that the US government gives to dissident groups are public
    expenditures. The bulk of the money is spent on bureaucracy or goes into
    the pockets of those in Florida who have turned anti-Castroism into an
    industry.

    It is also certainly true that there are and have been dissidents in
    Cuba who appropriate what is not theirs. Shortages, a lack of civic
    mindedness or lack of self-control have led some to act like tribal
    chieftains.

    But you cannot put everyone in the same boat. Corruption and a lack of
    transparency are even worse in the regime. A dissident is not divorced
    from the reality in which he lives.

    If they behave like a Fidel Castro in civilian clothes, it is because
    they were born and grew up in a country led by military strongmen. Both
    dissidents and government officials wear guayaberas. They do not know
    how to take advantage of new tools like the internet, their speech is
    filled with jargon and they do not know the value of smiling for the
    cameras.

    The shortcomings of Castro officials are replicated in their
    antagonists. But there is one notable difference: peaceful opponents
    endure physical assaults, arrests and acts of repudiation.

    Democrats from western countries would be acting consistently with their
    own teachings if they listened to the frustrations of the opposition. It
    would be a good way to avoid betraying themselves. Politics is the art
    of the possible.

    Ivan Garcia

    Marti Noticias, March 3, 2016

    Source: Cuban Dissidents in Western Democrats’ Selfies / Iván García |
    Translating Cuba –
    translatingcuba.com/cuban-dissidents-in-western-democrats-selfies-ivn-garca/

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