Open Letter from a Democratic Socialist to Cuba’s President

about the changes the country needs

Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – The following is the text written by Havana Times writer Osmel Ramírez Alvarez to Cuban president Miguel Diaz Canel.

To Miguel Diaz-Canel, President of Cuba and First Secretary of the PCC

From Osmel Ramirez Alvarez, democratic socialist and independent journalist.

First of all: Greetings!

I’m writing to you as the leader of my country, however, as a democrat and socialist I have to say that I don’t agree with the way in which public positions are chosen.

Now, that’s been cleared up, I’ll get straight to the point of this letter:

It all boils down to one question: how long will you, the ones leading this country, continue to experiment with this system that DOESN’T WORK and insist on CONTINUITY, if the only thing walking down this path has given us is hardship, migration, division among Cubans and even police and legal repression to keep us obedient and in check?

The life we Cubans live here in Cuba isn’t life and there is nothing more important to do here in our country today than push for the positive change that will get us out of this crisis and restore our people’s faith in a better life. It’s absurd and cruel not to do this, and it’s painful to see everyone who can escape Cuba, leave.

But, despite the disillusionment and desperation, some of us have held off emigrating, sentimentally tied to this land, our families and in my case, to the almost blind faith that ‘a better Cuba is possible’.

Eleven years ago, when the Communist Party (PCC) Guidelines were the Cuban people’s hope for sincere change – they were desperate to hold onto something – many people dared to have an opinion and give their ideas, believing that the Revolution was willing to ‘change everything that needs to be changed,’ and I dared to come up with a proposal of democratic socialism with economic freedom and full human rights. I handed it in to the provincial PCC office in Holguin.

Aside from the fact their first reaction was to open up a file against me as a counter-revolutionary and appoint a State Security official to me, who is still the person who deals with me; (and a long history of repression and harassment that isn’t what I want to write about here), after a year, ten years ago!, I received the PCC’s response.

It was an interview with cadres from the provincial PCC. We discussed my proposal and as they couldn’t come up with any arguments to refute my ideas, or prove that the official guidelines already in place were superior, the “ideological board of the provincial PCC” told me the following, in these words more or less:

“I have no shadow of doubt that you are a socialist and that’s why we’re meeting with you, but the Revolution and its 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.”

I understood that they weren’t willing to listen to anyone’s proposal, that there wasn’t any feedback, and they don’t care which idea is better. It was crystal clear. Later, a MININT official or State Security agent to be exact, came to speak to me on more than one occasion to “convince me” how dangerous it is to think and write about the change Cuba needs, and told me: “who do you think you are to say what needs to be done in Cuba? There are people who already do this, your job is what you studied, do that.” But I’m stubborn and I can’t help but try to be useful to my country. The icing on the cake? I’m a Marti follower.

The ten years stated by the abovementioned PCC cadre have now passed, although I know he said what he did without any sincerity, and the plan he was talking about ‘which was the one we had to follow’, is far from pushing the country forward and is only sinking it further. Even though it’s hard to recognize mistakes, it’s a necessary first step in order to achieve success. Continuity is the opposite of this.

We’ve reached a crossroads where the disaster of blackouts, shortages, lack of medicines and even a latex glove in a hospital, or pencils and books at schools and public transport or shoes, all of these misfortunes and more, are nothing compared to the loss of hope and impotence of the Cuban people, who have not a single sovereign or real democratic means to be the agents of change Cuba needs. In preserving this continuity, you have converted protest or criticism into crimes punishable with harsh sentences.

Under these circumstances, all of the power to PUSH FOR CHANGE is in your hands, because this is our national reality. This is why, ten years later, I am presenting my proposal for change again, a change towards democratic socialism with economic freedom and full human rights.

I hope that it is better studied this time, and I hope it manages to inspire an understanding of the need to do things differently from what has always failed in the past. The country needs to change urgently and we can’t take one more experiment that is based on continuity. Holding a referendum and asking the Cuban people whether they really want change or continuity would be the right thing to do, as they can support the reforms process.

I have to mention the embargo/blockade, because if I don’t, I’ll be accused of supporting it and the truth is, I don’t support any kind of blockade, but I will only be able to fight the foreign blockade when we have managed to get rid of the domestic one, which is the main reason for our problems, and it depends upon us Cubans 100%.  Plus, I can go out on a limb and safely say that the embargo/blockade would come crashing down if we abandoned this sterile war between Cubans.

I have to point out that trying to implement the Chinese-Vietnamese economic model (opening up to a market economy but avoiding laissez-faire) in Cuba would be an awful idea, unless this goes hand-in-hand with political reforms. It would be absolute nonsense, which far from resolving problems and conflict between Cubans, would only deepen it further.

Any serious reform must be in line with our reality and this urgently requires national reconciliation and a new inclusive social pact, which implies political reform.

I’m not after a leading role or participation, or even credit. Put Cuba first and we’ll all come out winning. The important thing is that Cuba changes for the better and peacefully, and that we all can move forward with all of our potential. There are so many valuable and talented people among us Cubans to seek out and find the best path for all of us.

On his recent visit to Havana, the Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said he “hoped that the revolution would be reborn within the revolution, and that the revolution is able to renew itself,” and I admit that his words also motivated me to write this letter and my decision to present my proposal for change once again.

The democratic socialist reform I’m proposing can be interpreted in this way by revolutionaries and socialists, and as the accomplishment of a democratic political system with economic freedom and full human rights: this isn’t a contradiction.

AMLO was respectful and in order to come off even more courteous followed this up with the fact that he believed “that things were being done for this end,” but you clearly don’t advise somebody to do something they’re already doing. In this regard, Fidel Castro himself said that ‘nobody knew how to build socialism’, and he was right, because it’s a social theory still under construction. So, why do we need to be tied to a single model, just on a whim, knowing it doesn’t work?

Reflect upon this please, from the Government and the PCC, and do what’s best for Cuba, not what’s best for this system’s continuity. Cuba is what matters, not the system. It would also be madness to not move forward just because you want to go against who you consider your enemy says, it would be just the opposite of what’s needed.

With the reforms I’m proposing, there won’t be any more political prisoners; protesting won’t be a threat to the system; every human right would be respected; everyone would be able to set up the business of their choice; there won’t be any more regulated or banned activities; or hate crimes or shortages or a migration exodus; and Cuba could be an example of democracy and freedom, people wouldn’t question it, while healthcare, education and social security would not only be struggling to keep afloat but excel.

Our people have so much potential to develop and take care of everything that’s good as if it were gold. If conserving the Revolution and the PCC’s role as the leader of this revolution were “something good”, they would cling to it with every inch of their being. It’s up to the PCC, not its opposition, to play the role assigned to it by the new democratic socialist social pact, outlined in this reform proposal, which is just as important as the one we have right now but is more in tune with what we need, as a safeguard for social balance and democracy.

My proposal doesn’t destroy the Revolution or socialism. On the contrary, it builds upon the original idea, and also opens up the way for a political democracy, economic freedom and full human rights. Something which we’ve been wanting, needing for so long and is fair. We can harmonize everything we want and thereby build a great Homeland where there is space for every Cuban, regardless of our differences. Like Marti himself dreamed: ‘with everyone and for everyone’s wellbeing.’

(I will post my proposal in a future article).

Mayari, Holguin. June 28th 2022.

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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.

Osmel Ramirez has 164 posts and counting. See all posts by Osmel Ramirez

4 thoughts on “Open Letter from a Democratic Socialist to Cuba’s President

  • I re-read Osmel’s thoughtful letter again and was impressed by his courage in writing despite the surveillance that he has experienced. I also admire his persistence. Being told that his proposal might be useful in ten years, then after ten years, resubmitting it. Like many who admire Cuba’s achievements in rejecting Spanish and then US exploitation or abuse, I see that there has been much to admire – but progress based on Martl’s teachings and selfless example has been stalled. Time for President Diaz Canel and Cuban leaders to recommit.

    Osmel, Marti would thank you for doing your patriotic duty. I look forward to your proposal.

  • Moses, you will be referring to the Cuban government as the “Castro government” long after Raul is dead. You and the far right exiles must feel nostalgic for the days when Fidel was alive and running the country. Sounds like being stuck in a time warp.

  • Wonderful article. If you study José Marti, you will see his commitment to democracy, a political system run by civil rather than military people and calling on the duty of citizens to protest. He also called for expanded education an education on politics and social justice.

    However, after the Revolution, pursuit of his teachings got stalled. Why? The easiest answer is that US interference made the government hesitate about full democracy that was vulnerable to US influence. And after invasion, continuous assasination attempts on the president and constant financial support to government opposition groups, it is possible to understand to active role of the military. (Interestingly, I recently sent $50 to a US congressman to support their efforts, but it was returned with the explanation that they could not accept foreign donations that might be see as foreign influence on US affairs! Think of the millions spent by the US trying to influence Cuban affairs.)

    So, I think that we need a re commitment to José Marti from the Cuban government and a policy of non interference from the US government.

    Best regards,

    Michael Wiggin
    Ottawa, Canada

  • Who thinks that Diaz-Canel will ever hear about let alone read this letter? I applaud Osmel for having the temerity to even write this letter. I can’t imagine the set this guy has to send it. In a backasswards place like Cuba, Osmel could suddenly just disappear one day because of State Security. The truth is that most of Cuban leadership knows that the current system sucks. But it is the only system that assures the Castro elite will remain in power. Anything approaching democracy and the moribund Castro dictatorship blows up forever. But at least now, because of Osmel’s letter, history will record that the Castro regime had fair warning of their impending doom and did nothing.

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