An Inclusive and Feasible Road to Change in Cuba

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Foto: Casey Strong

HAVANA TIMES — My latest article “Clarifications about change in Cuba” published here on Havana Times, has provoked many interesting comments; and these have been my motivation for writing these daring and dangerous words!

Although it is a simple debate, a simple brainstorm of ideas which seeks to encourage the civility and bravery which we need to make a new Cuba possible; they might still have it “fit into” the small minded requirements of the “gag law” leading to me being arrested in a blink of an eye and my family remaining unprotected. It’s a latent possibility which steps on our heels on the island.

Of course I’m afraid. I took it from my people who are used to fearing the aggressive system and with due reason. Luckily, this fear doesn’t paralyze me and my desire, my civility and my sense of honor to be useful to my country, in the sense that Marti once pointed out.

My father (to mention an example close by) remains loyal to Cuba’s leaders and the Communist Party for many reasons which I understand, like hundreds of thousands of Cubans do. However, he is afraid for me and knows that we live in an intolerant and repressive system. His behavior seems illogical but this is the way our people work and we gain nothing by getting annoyed, being unreasonable and unable to respect everyone, in spite of what seems absurd.

We will gain nothing if we don’t try to get to know our people to their core. We will go nowhere if we create the fictitious idea that in Cuba only a new group of “illuminated” people can lead society; people who are different and oppose those who have ruled up until today without consulting the people. This would be to ignore reality.

What I am dealing with here in this post, and in all my posts, are my personal opinions, which I present, defend and enrich with HT readers’ spot-on comments. Far from believing myself to be the owner of Truth or of all of Cuba’s solutions, I dare to say what I think because I believe this is useful at this productive time: this is why I love dialogue and I encourage it, because this is the only way ideas are enrichened and a path is paved towards a general consensus which is necessary.

Foto: Casey Strong

In this regard, I would like to share my vision about a possible road map for change in Cuba.

  1. Working together with every group or party which promotes democratic change, no matter what their ideology is. For example, to activate a Congress for Change in Cuba, which holds sessions every year on patriotic dates (around October 10th or February 24th) at important places such as Tampa, Cayo Hueso or Montecristi. There, joint decisions about what’s needed in the New Cuba and about the ways we can fight for change can be made.  A platform like this would have greater influence in international diplomacy, in third party relationships with Cuba and would inspire greater respect and recognition for the peaceful and democratic opposition.
  1. A political action plan geared towards preventing a new President of Cuba coming into power in 2018 without direct, popular elections and without coming from the many options our spontaneous political pluralism could provide. Using strategies within the current legal framework we have, similar to the unsuccessful Varela Project; this time without trying to take away the socialist nature of our politics: with greater organization, scale, maturity and international support. It would encourage small democratic tweaks which are key to making “initial change” possible, which will inevitably open up the way to an all-inclusive process.
  1. Propose a Transition Government as of 2018. I believe that this should last for two years. Organized opposition groups would set a good example of peace and harmony if they asked for Raul Castro or another important leader appointed by the PCC to lead this Transition Government. It would dissolve the National Assembly immediately and rule by decree, enacted (maybe) by a revised State Council where a third of members could continue to be PCC members, chosen by this council at a special meeting and the remaining two thirds would be made up of opposition members, chosen by the Congress for Change in Cuba. Decrees would effectively be laws in nature during this time, and would be approved or blocked by the new Parliament elected from our political pluralism. The first decrees should restore the public freedoms lost during the Revolution.
  1. Carry out an inclusive process during this time and then hold a referendum so that the Cuban people can approve or disapprove the proposed constitution.
  1. Hold general elections, once parties are organized, these new institutions in place and the people would be better informed about what they should vote on, as well as becoming more adapted to living in a democracy.

Of course the sole existence of a Congress like this one, which displays national consensus and a political front to the world, which validates the real existence of democratic opposition in Cuba; or a plan like the one aforementioned which has all of the country’s best interests at heart, will not resolve the problem we have in its entirety. Its success depends on a realistic strategy which will win over the trust and choice of the majority of the Cuban people.

There will not be mass signatures if people don’t get rid of their fear: of the government repressing them and taking away their opportunities; of the opposition cheating us with projects that seem democratic and then end up being sellouts or opportunistic. And that depends on us too.

Like “brother Obama” said, (I quote him without using his words in a literal sense): if something hasn’t worked for five decades, it’s time to do things differently; if we have dug a lot in one place and haven’t found the water we were looking for, let’s dig somewhere else and we might have a better chance of finding it.

Photo: Catherine van Hooff

No matter how much it annoys those who want to save our people without knowing and respecting them, whoever says “Down with Fidel” or “Death to the Revolution”, will not have a political future in Cuba in the short or medium- term. The discourse needs to be changed, the style and methods the opposition uses, if we want to create a common cause with our people in favor of change.

“We non-Communists also have rights”; “The Revolution needs to change”; “We want change without losing the Revolution’s achievements”; and so on, these are the messages which we should be sending to the Cuban people and government. Even though we don’t like them, even though we don’t agree with their system and methods, it’ll be productive to respect them and take them into account. This is the best path and the only viable option we have available.

Communists are bogging us down by insisting on their anti-democratic and inefficient system; the oppostion is also bogging down the chance of constructive change taking place by insisting on their inefficient methods which keep them invisible to the Cuban people, repressed by the Government and not very well-known among the international community. If any of these two groups were to change their strategy and employ a realistic plan, they could take away the trophy and become the new leaders of the New Cuba.

I don’t care who does it! I just care about the outcome. While Cuba is able to gear its path towards democracy and prosperity, everything will be fine. What I don’t want is that the same dog has his collar changed, or that democracy and capitalism appear at the same time leaving us like Haiti, prey to new vultures.

If I were asked who, I would say without even thinking about it: it should be the opposition to do this because they have a greater chance of breaking through the psychological barriers which prevent those in power from understanding what Cuba really needs. That’s what I believe at least.

  • N.J. Marti

    Those with power prefer not to give it up.

  • Moses Patterson

    In 1857, Frederick Douglass wrote “This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” It fits the situation in Cuba like hand in glove.

    • jim

      I remain an optimist. The cute saying ‘the dog has a change of collars’ is unsetting to me …

      • Moses Patterson

        Keep in mind that the “dog(s)” is more than 80 years old. Younger dogs are likely to have a different take on things.

        • jim

          Moses:
          Thanks for your insight. I enjoy reading your posts … a lot! I took you for an older curmudgeon. Now reading your reactions, I have to reassess my image of you. A ‘changed’ and new generation coming into power? We will see. I believe you are a true and obstreperous person. That is in the sense of resisting any controls and being consistently disruptive along the way. All the best, Jim

          • Moses Patterson

            Gracias

    • Donald Thureau

      “Agitate, agitate, agitate”. Eventually, they may listen.

  • jim

    I remain an optimist. Although such cute sayings / thoughts that “the dog only changes its collar’ is what I find upsetting …

  • Rich Haney

    Some thoughtful ideas here but also somewhat remindful of the Trojan Horse Syndrome. Prior to the victory of the Cuba Revolution on Jan. 1, 1959, there were six decades for democracy-lovers in the United States to bring democracy to Cuba. So, what happened? Rip-off companies like Boston-based United Fruit, along with U.S.-backed dictators like Batista and the Mafia to facilitate the rip-offs, were sicced on the island…from the world’s strongest democracy. A top Twentysomething leader in Cuba — the notable news anchor Cristina Escobar — adamantly says, “I don’t want the U. S. to bring me democracy. That is a process for Cubans on the island.” You can see and hear her say such things on the YouTube video made in Cuba by respected U. S. journalist Tracy Eaton on behalf of the Pulitzer Center. From Spain, from the U. S., etc., for centuries…even as great Cubans like Jose Marti and Antonio Maceo gave their lives fighting for independence and democracy…foreign thieves plundered the vulnerable island, but yet the main thrust from the U. S. to this day mitigates against Cristina Escobar’s sane mantra: “I don’t want the U. S. to bring me democracy. That is a project for Cubans on the island.” She remembers Batista and the Mafia, but very conveniently the legions of counter-revolutionaries pretend they never existed, except as Mother Teresa-type rulers in Cuba. To totally wipe out that mantra, I believe, will result in bloodshed…but that hasn’t deterred money-crazed forces in the past, has it?

    • Ronin

      There will always be a United Fruit, a Mafia, other criminal low life element, or any other self serving people, who will try to suck the blood out of any potential source of revenue to line their own pocket at any cost.

      It’s all up to the gatekeepers not to open the door when the devil knocks. The “money-crazed forces” are all over the world, and some of the largest masses of victims are right here inside the U.S. They don’t care whose blood they are sucking, as long as they are getting their profits. Just take a look at the corrupt banking, medical, large corporations, and even religious organizations in the U.S, and around the world.

  • Ronin

    Osmel, I completely agree with you philosophy, although I think it’s a bit on the idealist side, nevertheless I do believe that your idea of inclusion of all parties involved is the only path that will lead to better form of government.
    Otherwise the whole affair will be just a repeat of the 1979 Iranian revolution, where the Shah’s government was overthrown only to be replace by a much more repressive government.

    If there were a change to take place in Cuba, it must come from the within and without the interference and manipulations of foreign governments. Unfortunately the evil that exist within the hearts of humans will always be the undermining force in preventing change in any society.