HAVANA TIMES — A few days ago I learned about the incipient group “Sociedad Civil Cubana” (Cuban Civil Society) having submitted a manifesto to the People’s National Assembly under the title “Citizens’ Demand for Another Cuba.”
The members of various opposition groups, civic associations and ordinary citizens who have signed the document so far have done so solely under the supposed protections afforded by Articles 3 and 63 of the current Cuban constitution. These articles read as follows:
“Article 3: In the Republic of Cuba sovereignty lies in the people, from whom originates all the power of the state.”
“Article 63: Every citizen has the right to file complaints with and send petitions to the authorities and to be given the pertinent response or attention within a reasonable length of time, in keeping with the law.”
When I first read the letter, I reacted like any “ordinary Cuban,” feeling a mixture of fear but also envy for those brave few who live here on the island and signed the letter.
Then I had a feeling of self-pity, thinking to myself that “if I didn’t work for the government, maybe I too would have signed the statement.” Nonetheless, despite my fear of the statement, I couldn’t forget its message.
Then a rare effect occurred. What started bouncing around in my mind was an idea by Gandhi: “If you want to change the world, change yourself.”
As a result, I signed the letter. Yes, I signed it, and I did so despite my shameful fear and despite working as a researcher at the Cuban Academy of Sciences – though this could well mean me losing my job.
I could easily see the hand-tied Cuban union, at the request of the State Security forces, kicking me out following a meeting in which I’m sure that no colleague would stand up in my defense.
But I also feel that I don’t want to wait for others to do something that is also my responsibility. I’m tired of waiting for a miracle from God or for the changes that the leadership is promising — which have not come and will not come — so that I can really improve my life.
In any case, whenever I visit my parent’s house in Santiago de Cuba, what I see is them raising a pig just a few yards from their bedroom. Their home in a sad situation with respect to their health.
However, since they retired this has been the only option by the Cuban government for them to eat a piece of meat in December and the only way for them to ever see more than 240 pesos (12 usd) at any one time. In this situation, it’s easy for me to realize that the situation in Cuba is now unacceptable to me.
As I can understand the courage of those who signed the demand for change — done at their own risk — I too am doing the same.
I too must admit the difficulty of thinking differently in a situation in which entire generations, like soldiers, became accustomed to obeying the orders of the leaders, no matter how controversial or awkward these were.
For this reason the country became involved in wars that were as unnecessary as they were distant, just as it pursued business plans that not only destroyed the national economy but now force us to import over 60 percent of our food.
Meanwhile the few expectations for living a decent life have turned emigration into the only solution for our youth to realize a life that would be impossible in Cuba.
If there is something negative about the “Citizens Demand for Another Cuba,” it is the few signatures that were collected, because even if it was signed 10,000 people, this would leave out the vast majority of those affected.
But if there is something really good about this letter, it will be that it demonstrates to the Cuban government that the list of those of us who are losing our fear of speaking without censorship is increasing every day.
When the history of freedom of expression during the Cuban Revolution is written, there’s no doubt that fear — unfortunately — will be a main topic.