Promoting Civic Initiatives for Change Is the Path Ahead

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

HAVANA TIMES – If we want a better country, we have to fight for this country; if we want a democracy, a prosperous economy that is open to everyone; just like we want fair wages; if we want our human rights to be respected; if we want freedom: we have to fight, there’s no other way.

But “fighting” doesn’t mean violence, NO. It means doing something, not sitting still, taking part, not settling, not closing our eyes to public affairs and only thinking about our personal business as a refuge; not thinking that it’s somebody else’s job to bring about change, but our own.

The Cuban Communist Party’s authoritarian system needs us to be obedient in order to stay in power, it needs us to be afraid, for us to believe that we can’t do anything and it treats us as our own enemy, the sovereign people we are. It’s a paradox for sure, but it works. It’s an excellent way to hold onto power and it’s based on social control, not on freedom or democracy. These are the government’s weapons against any change, including progresive change, and they are very effective.

Yet, there is one “weapon” that stands out among the rest: fear. In reality, shaking this fear that’s been instilled in us needs to be lot easier, deactivating this bomb of cerebral cowardice, so we can fight against bullets like they themselves did or emigrate, putting our lives on the line, like so many millions of fellow Cubans have. It isn’t impossible, but you need to be aware of what’s going on in order to do this.

And what would we gain?

First of all, the ability to practise our sovereignty, that has been usurped by the Communists. The Cuban people need to be electing their leaders, not an exclusive political party who believes it is the working class vanguard when it doesn’t even represent the working class; it just uses them in the political sphere and exploits them with low wages. Because if they really wanted a fairer world, they would start off by giving the Cuban people their sovereignty back.

The idea of pushing for laws and even constitutional amendments taking advantage of the law (nominal up until now), which the Cuban Constitution allows us to, is an initiative that might not only gain us ground in a legal sense so that we can move towards a better democracy, but it would also be good civic practise for the population.

Some ideas for laws that need to be pushed:

  1. A Law for the effective protection of free movement (which limits domestic and international regulados or people banned from traveling, for political, ideological reasons or anyone not subjected to a trial in the case of domestic migrants, within the country, between the capital and the interior).
  2. Law of due process (which allows you to have access to a lawyer from the very moment you are arrested, the right to be interrogated in front of a lawyer and only 24 hours in detention while an investigation is underway – unless charges are pressed – like the 1940 Constitution stipulates.
  3. Law for cooperatives and SMEs, which makes their creation possible and swift, without the need to seek approval beyond the municipality.
  4. Law about the effective excercise of freedom of speech (which gives it greater access to the media, allowing it to found itself as a cooperative or SME; which stops the criminalization of civil and independent journalism; which bans sites from being blocked online and bans the monitoring of bank accounts and phone calls, as this is an invasion of privacy).
  5. Law against the abuse of authority and repressive impunity (which means MININT needs to create a body to deal with “domestic affairs” and allow citizens to press charges against officials from this institution (they can only present a complaint up until now), whether that is a police officer or State Security agent, to the Attorney General’s Office so they can be taken to trial in a normal court, not be tried by a military prosecutor).
  6. Law about the free association of civil society (which allows the LEGAL creation of independent labor unions, groups of independent artists, journalists, religious followers, etc.).

There might be hundreds of initiatives, but wouldn’t pushing for something that leaves an escape valve for the adversary be wiser than trying to crush them no matter what the cost? For example, the abrupt elimination of the political system, overthrowing the government and free elections, or a political party law.

If we take this as our starting point, then we’ll die on the shore as we push our boat out to water. We need to push for laws that would make the Parliament and government look terrible in the public eye, especially damaging international opinion, which is what they really care about.

It’s a win-win situation for every side because the Communists need change, but they don’t have the courage to go after it. If we give them a good reason and pressure them a little, they might give in and also gain something along with the Cuban people. If we don’t get gain anything, we will always win in other aspects: our people’s civic culture, unity, political maturity.

Of course, it would be a tough battle to fight. Even though it would be legal for us to use these constitutional means, the government will criminalize anything they can that weakens them, unleashing all of their repressive force. However, it’s not impossible if we have perseverance, if we do it without hate, with restraint and only encouraging civic spirit.

It’s an easier battle than the one the US is waging, trying to convince our people that we can bear and need to sacrifice and suffer hunger and other growing needs indefinitely, until the government gives in. A government that loads the plate with pressure and adversity prompted by what they call “the Empire”.

I also believe that it would be a great mistake for us to politicize any initiative to push for a law. If we just want to abide by the Constitution and win back every Cuban’s rights, regardless of ideology, then it’s better to focus it as a civil society struggle. It would be more “comfortable” for people who depend on the State and are victims of social control, to join this movement.

If the Constitution says that the socialist nature of our country is irrevocable, let’s leave it at that. We don’t need to mention capitalism or socialism to push for a law. Names are just irrelevant in the end, rights and the freedoms we earn are what’s most important, and some people will spur on others and so on, until we “conquer all Justice”, like Marti himself dreamed. This is just one of the many initiatives we could have.

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.

3 thoughts on “Promoting Civic Initiatives for Change Is the Path Ahead

  • This is a profound article. I always felt that it isn’t enough to be against something, you need a specific objective to move people toward something. Your proposal does just that. It reminds me of how Frederick Douglass used the framework of the U.S. Constitution to move toward change. Your proposal seeks to work within an existing constitutional framework as well.

  • Like the Soviet Union, the Cuban communist system will eventually rot from within. The only question is that of time. Brad is correct in saying that the current communist regime (which is based upon the Stalinist interpretation of Marx/Engels/Lenin) has no intention of permitting change.

  • Good luck with that optimism is great but
    The communists have no intention of allowing these new freedoms and laws which would slowly unravel their awful corrupt tyranny.

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