By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – On October 13th, three officials from the Mayari municipal government came to my front door to hand me the response to the open letter I’d sent in June to President Miguel Diaz-Canel. I published the document here on Havana Times and on social media.
They brought the response on a single piece of paper, with another small piece of paper fastened to it, a kind of receipt. I sped through it and couldn’t help but let a faint smile in the shape of a grimace out when I saw the arguments. They were still shocking and contradictory even when they’re obvious and you’re expecting them.
The response was cutting and brief, of course: “any model that isn’t contemplated in the Constitution approved by the majority of the Cuban people is inconceivable.” They used just two arguments to support their “no”:
Article 1 of the Constitution, which stipulates: “Cuba is a socialist State of law, democratic, independent and sovereign, organized with and for the good of all, as a unitary and indivisible republic, founded on the work, dignity and ethics of its citizens, whose essential objectives are the enjoyment of freedom, equity, social equality, solidarity, well-being and individual and collective prosperity.”
As well as the age-old argument: “despite the blockade and the 243 measures imposed by the US Government, seeks sustainable development for the wellbeing of the Cuban people.” Plus, “experts on the subject were consulted.”
I put a cross in the box “disagree” and signed it, and that’s when I was surprised that a copy was for me, as they don’t normally leave a trace of any response to opposition members or dissidents. They usually just give you an oral response, thereby leaving no evidence. One of the officials, the man, didn’t utter a word, but the two women were very respectful and friendly when they spoke, but they tried to be formal and not very empathetic.
It’s pretty likely they never even saw my proposal and, if they had, they might have even liked it. But they weren’t here to talk it over with me or to give their opinion, only deliver the official response.
When I sent a similar letter to Raul Castro, 11 years ago, and a proposal for change – with this just being an update – they took the effort to simulate a debate with the objective of belittling me with professors from Holguin University and the PCC Provincial School, as well as the Ideological Board of the Provincial PCC in Holguin.
But they didn’t have arguments to refute the need for change, despite having created a certain expectation with the public debates that led to the unsuccessful Party Guidelines. At that time, the cadre stopped the debate and told me:
“The Revolution and Party has its own plan; we believe it’s the best plan and that it’s going to work. We aren’t dealing with these kinds of proposals at the moment. Maybe in 10 years time, these ideas of yours will be pertinent, but not right now.”
However, ten years later, the country is sunken and there is zero chance of raising people’s expectations, or getting them excited about more of the same old but dressed up a little. Arguments by political cadres and professors are a lot more hollow and weaker today. That’s why the alternative to delivering a written response on a piece of paper with three paragraphs is understandably better, so they don’t run the risk of having to give an opinion and save themselves time looking for arguments.
There are plenty of people who will tell me “I knew it” or “it’s a waste of time” or “Osmel is so naive”. Let me just say that I never had positive expectations about the response, it was just a formal step. Obviously, if the PCC government really was ready to react and take action for Cuba and not just for its own interests to hold onto power, they would have already made the changes the country needs. But that’s up to them, not us.
My proposal in the 30 Point Program, which I sent along with the open letter to Diaz-Canel and which I posted on social media, doesn’t exactly need his support or approval to be successful. Of course, it would be amazing if he did, but it would be unlikely to think that he would. It’s for the Cuban people to like it to gain ground. It’s the opposition who must see the advantage of having this as a first option, as the window that is always open for agreement and a dialogue above all else.
In fact, this is the heart of the matter: putting the chance for Cubans to have a dialogue between themselves on the table, “everyone” being able to surrender a little for a better Cuba; for social peace; for a political democracy with economic freedom and full human rights. Everything else is secondary and we can fight with each other over our specific ideas once we have a democracy. Knowing this, the response I received didn’t surprise me or lower my spirits.