Ending the Cold War Among Cubans

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Havana photo by Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – The ‘classic’ Cold War that we are all familiar with, some because they experienced it firsthand and our younger generations via history books, was the clash between two opposing superpowers in the 20th century: The US and the Soviet Union. It ended alm

ost three decades ago. It had meant the end of great danger for humanity, although there are many problems that still need urgent attention.

However, in Cuba, this beautiful and agitated archipelago in the middle of the Caribbean, it would seem like Time stands still and we continue in the “Cold War” in a vicious, almost sickening, never-ending way.

In that old Socialism vs. Capitalism conflict, it looked like we were just a pawn of greater interests. Like Marti would say, “a battle of comets in the sky, which hurtle through the air engulfing whole worlds asleep.”

Later, when we no longer had any strong allies, the conflict continued like a cyst-shaped remnant of that great battle. Reason told us that it would end at some point, but it never did.

Time passes us by here, but nothing changes. However not everything is the same as it was back then. Something interesting is happening. It is shedding a light on the real nature of this conflict, or its new essence.

Today, the Caribbean “Cold War” is more of a domestic affair between Cubans. Instead of a bilateral conflict between Cuba and the US, or between Communism and Capitalism. A bilateral detente is the hostage of our own conflict, not vice-versa.

The ideological war between Cubans is the fuel that keeps the fire of discord alive. Communists vs. Democrats, it’s no longer really against capitalism. That’s because Cuban Communists introduced State capitalism a while ago, and the private sector is receiving a boost.

It’s a war between Communist pro-government political forces and the democratic opposition. The latter wants change with political and economic freedom, and a safeguard that all human rights will be respected.

This is the war that is being waged, and it is the reason for all of our chaos today. Even with regards to the US embargo. It suits the government to continue to focus on the embargo as a bilateral issue, for propaganda reasons. It prefers to sit down at the negotiation table with the US rather than the opposition. The same mistaken pride that Spain had over a century ago when it refused to negotiate with its Mambise sons in Paris.

However, there’s no doubt that if Cubans – Government and opposition – were to sit down and enter a dialogue, reach an agreement and ditch their differences, the US would lift the embargo in a blink of an eye. It would be void.

The embargo is being sustained and pushed for by Cuban politicians in this country, as part of their war. It doesn’t matter how the embargo came about anymore, because it’s secondary today.

Within this context of a national “Cold War”, many people believe that in order for the embargo to end and for social peace to reach Cuba, we first need to overcome the Communist Party and even ban it, executing many of its leaders.

But the reality is that neither the embargo, nor a detente, or the violent opposition of yesteryear and the peaceful opposition of today, both in and outside the island, has been able to topple the Communist regime, and it doesn’t look like this will happen anytime soon.

Many people believe that the “end is near” with this new avalanche of “tough” restrictions from the US. Just like a thirsty traveler seeing an oasis in the middle of a desert where there is nothing but sand.

It makes it harder for the Cuban government to do its job, but it also strengthens its politics and ideology. It can happily assume the role of a superpower’s victim. Even though it is only really crippling the Cuban people and the domestic image of the opposition. It’s the same never-ending vicious circle as always.

We’ve been in this war for six decades now. We could perfectly spend a century or more without finding a solution, if we continue on the current path. Meanwhile, our people continue to emigrate or live in absurd poverty in Cuba. The latter do so with their hands tied behind their backs and unable to get out of this fix.

But not everything is bleak right now. The only good that comes from this exhausting situation is that we exchange politely and use common sense. Something which is luckily being valued, with a lot of interest by some opposition members.

The best thing would be for Cubans to agree upon an exit strategy from this national conflict. We know the Government is arrogant and authoritarian, and doesn’t recognize the existence and legitimacy of the opposition movement. It’s an important part of its strategy. But, is it smart for the opposition to take this as an excuse not to negotiate? Of course not, because as soon as the Government agrees to sit down at his negotiation table, they’ll be leaving their politics behind.

The opposition has been hurt greatly by the Communist regime. That’s a fact, but we can’t let hate or rencor win out. It’s a dead-end street. We have to put Cuba first and I’m sure that seeing Cuba make progress will be the best healing oil. The hunger for justice should not be an obstacle in their journey for justice. We must open up roads. Our battle must be for the island first and foremost, not against the Communists.

Democracy should be our path, not destroying the Communist Party. Human rights and political and economic freedom are the real goal. Then we’ll have time for justice in all its splendor, if necessary.

Seeking a consensual democratic strategy between the Government and the opposition, that is feasible and allows us to all exist and help to build a better Cuba, is the path that looks promising in the near future. We just need to commit ourselves to it with a basic level of politeness and tolerance. The sooner we understand this, the sooner our people will have peace and be happy.

Read more posts by Osmel Ramirez here.

4 thoughts on “Ending the Cold War Among Cubans

  • One cannot agree with Stephen’s definition of political persuasions within Cuba. His suggestion that there are but two opposing views, both of which support communism but in different forms, (and it is communism not socialism as understood in the free world), ignores the very substantial portion of Cuban society that abhors communism whether promoted by Stalinist hard liners, or the imagined “extreme optimists”, and seeks true democracy with the right to choose.

    Unlike Stephen, I do live in Cuba and have prolonged experience of communism in practice in both Europe and Cuba. Stephen is however correct in much of his analysis of communist participation in negotiations, cynicism is justified.

    When considering the views expressed by Cubans – Osmel Ramirez Alvarez is one example – it is necessary to understand the differences of perception which exist between those who have only lived under the repression of a one-party state, and those who like Stephen, have lived in open democratic societies. The world is seen through very different lenses and that in turn is reflected in expressed opinions.

    The answer to the question posed by Stephen, whether “any Communist government slowly relinquished power by sitting down with a democratic opposition and allowing personal freedoms to prevail.” is perhaps best answered by Austria eventually regaining its freedom from the USSR – but only following 147 meetings over years. It was a mistake upon the part of the USSR that was not repeated.

    In such negotiations, it is obviously impossible for either side to leave their politics behind, for it is difference of political view that is causal.

  • Osmel has written an extremely profound eye opening article for those not that familiar with the intricacies of political maneuvering in Cuba today.

    One side of the Herculean hurdle to overcome is the present Communist Party and its ideology of totalitarianism, a one party system with a belief that the ordinary Cuban is better off with absolute, complete socialism rather than an open, free, more democratic system, whatever that entails.

    On the other side are the extreme optimists who, if I understand correctly, say yes to a form of a Communist Party but not a Communist Party necessarily as it presently exists because it does not allow any form of democracy, and extremely limits personal freedoms.

    That is quiet the conundrum to resolve. The former, the Communists, are in power. Why would they want to listen and even risk giving up absolute power by engaging with an opposition opposed or in disagreement with their methods. Osmel states “Seeking a consensual democratic strategy between the Government and the opposition, that is feasible and allows us to all exist and help to build a better Cuba, is the path that looks promising in the near future.”

    No one would disagree with that statement but for the elites in power who by their very political ideological nature and beliefs believe any opposition is being commandeered by outside forces who want to topple the very existence of socialism as a means of political expression.

    The Cuban Communist Party knows full well the battle of political ideologies is not only being fought in Cuba but in Venezuela and Nicaragua where so called “outside forces” want to eliminate socialism (some call it communism light) from existing in the Western hemisphere. The Cuban elite are very aware of that battle and will not relent one inch to so called democratic negotiations as a means to better Cuba. Cuba sees itself as the pinnacle of socialism and carries that banner proudly worldwide.

    Absolutely, the Communist elite will engage but only enough to show the Cuban people that they are willing “partners” for the Cuban media and the Cuban propaganda machine to publicize their involvement, but that is the extent of their participation ideals. Has any Communist government slowly relinquished power by sitting down with a democratic opposition and allowed personal freedoms to prevail? China, Vietnam, Russia are still very much one party communist states.

    Osmel writes “…as soon as the Government agrees to sit down at his negotiation table, they’ll be leaving their politics behind.” I don’t know about that. I do not live in Cuba but I have read a great deal of how communist governments and totalitarian states operate and they will try and use any trickery in the book to keep power and just because they happen to sit down across the table does not mean they have left their politics behind.

    In fact, the exact opposite because the Communist Party Propaganda machine will be in full publicizing mode on national media showing how “democratic” the Communist Party really is by engaging with the opposition while not demonstrably nor realistically budging one inch.

    I totally understand and agree with Osmel in his hopeful optimism to see some positive change within Cuba soon for the betterment of all Cubans and that the fight for this transition to a more tolerant society must be negotiated from within Cuban borders amongst Cubans with the political players currently in power. As an optimist myself, I hope for this outcome sooner than later.

  • A correction! The Cold War was not as Osmel Ramirez Alvarez writes, between the US and the Soviet Union.

    It was between the many countries which believed in freedom of the individual within democratic societies and those who favoured pursuit of Marx/Engles/Leninism which imprisoned not only the bodies, but the minds and souls of humanity.

    The eventual collapse of the Soviet Empire was because it rotted from within. The freedom loving countries, generally referred to as “The West”, united for forty five years forming NATO, in a holding operation to contain the Soviet Union ambitions for “world domination”. At stake, was the freedom of mankind.

    It should be noted that “The West” included countries with governments of various political persuasions, from socialist to conservative – but all of which supported democracy. Future generations can be grateful that those countries prevailed over the tyranny of the Soviet Union, for it will allow them to continue to chose their paths in life. Democracy’s least recognized privilege, is the right to disagree, under communism there is no choice.

  • Osmel, one of your best articles. Keep up the good work!

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