Dialogue is the Only Winning Strategy for Cubans

It’s difficult to dialogue in times of crisis. Everyone interprets whatever they want. Are you calling me an idiot?

HAVANA TIMES – Developing a road map to dig Cuba out of the deep hole it’s fallen into represents a dilemma and an enormous challenge, not to mention having that road map be accepted and later function. So much so, that the popular verdict is expressed with an oft-repeated daily saying on our streets: “no one can knock it down, and no one can set it right.”

Obviously, things are in an equilibrium, but unfortunately not one resulting from consensus, nor from the cohesion of our society’s most positive values and aspirations. Rather, it’s a disastrous balance of the things that divide and harm us.

It’s been reached via a combination of the worst elements of the diverging factions: intransigence, ignorance and the disparaging of the opposing side. In this whirlpool, a war to “the finish” is the only road they see to fruitfully resolve the conflicting aspirations. This need to annul or vanquish completely the ideas of the other have brought us to this blind alley, apparently with no exit.

Common sense screams that under these circumstances the only road is dialogue and consensus, culminating in an agreement that’s good for all, and where we all must cede “something” for it to be possible. This isn’t possible, however, amid a general intransigence, nor with intolerance. Unfortunately, such common sense isn’t prevailing – not among the governing officials, nor with an important part of the opposition that still dominates public discourse on this topic.

The strategy of dialogue isn’t just “wanting to talk,” or wanting two factions who say they’re opposed to the idea, to sit down to a dialogue. From that erroneous perspective, of course, it seems stupid, out of place, or just nonsensical to take it on.

Nonetheless, the steps towards such a prospect are very logical, and make a great deal of sense. These can be summarized in several points:

  1. Accept that dialogue and concertation are our number one option, the principal road for reaching our objectives; and maintain this conviction clearly at all times, making it the center of the communications battle.
  2. Understand that – apart from the fact that it hasn’t been capable of resolving even minimally the country’s needs – the Communist Party is in power, and has no desire to leave that privileged position, because “dialogue” to them means, a priori, losing things. And there resistance is natural.
  3. Presume that, given the above fact, the opposition must be the one to drive the dialogue, and not the governing body. It then becomes necessary to foster an appropriate scenario, assure it a role in public debate, and convince the public and the international community to pressure the government to accept it and participate.

A dialogue strategy is based on win-win, on consensus, on the premise that there are neither victors nor vanquished; and there is no vengeance, no reprisals, or anything else that could affect national reconciliation and the transition to a Better Cuba. Perhaps it should be agreed that no name will be given to the change or new model that emerges; or that a different name will be given to it, rather than the one either side wants to impose. The dynamic of events will shape the details.

The most probable outcome of that potential dialogue between the Communist Party government and willing sectors of the opposition would be a new model of transitory democracy. It won’t be the current model, which is perfect to keep things the way things are now, but will also not be any type of conventional political democracy where they [the government] would be left shorn of guarantees as events unfold. It would be neither “reasonable” nor “objective” to aspire to that.

A consensus would have to be arrived at, with a formula that guarantees democratic functioning during a stage of essential transformations. Furthermore, they would have to take place under conditions of governability and social peace, where there are guarantees regarding the physical integrity and functioning of both the political figures who participate on the side of the current government, as well as the new figures who participate. That model would have to be symbiotic, a special formula for transitioning to the Better Cuba that would be taking shape.

A mechanism and a deadline should be created within that transition “model,” so that it’s the people who finally decide – with their free and spontaneous vote within an agreed-upon deadline – if the model is kept, or what part of it is kept, or if none of it is kept. The people must be the ones to decide if the recommended Constitutional changes are enough, if others must be made, or if a Constitutional convention process is necessary. That scenario, and not the dialogue table, would be the best place for such purposes.

In fact, the Communist Party could make the changes without the need for dialogue or concertation, thus avoiding problems and contradictions, but they’d be affected by two factors. First, the inertia of continuity would keep them from making the reforms at the level the country needs; and, second, they’d need credibility, and at this point, if they don’t pact with the opposition, they wouldn’t succeed in convincing anyone – within or outside of the government – of a sincere will to change.

This strategy for change isn’t guaranteed to achieve all its objectives, nor is it very likely that the Communist Party government, accustomed to dominating and existing as a lone political force, would dare to take such an altruistic and patriotic step. But it’s not impossible. And while there’s a tiny shred of probability, of possibility, it’s crucial that we attempt it.

We must advocate for this way out. Promoting it, successfully or not, will only bring gains. More so since any other way out, much as we might prefer it, has still fewer probabilities of either happening or being successful in the short and medium term.

Read more from the diary of Osmel Ramirez here.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

One thought on “Dialogue is the Only Winning Strategy for Cubans

  • Another excellent article Osmel. I can’t find the references at the moment but I believe it was Hungary that invited a number of genuine dissidents to join the politburo with a view of creating round table talks and a new constitution. Of course not all problems will be solved but the important thing is that it is a genuine process built by the grassroots and not by powerful outside forces. Will it solve everything? – definitely not.

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