By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban Communist Party’s (PCC) first secretary, Miguel Diaz-Canel, recently came out with a tongue-twister, in one of his propaganda performances on social media, about them “revolutionizing the revolution in a landscape where nobody is getting revolutionized”, or something like that, which triggered a lot of mockery and memes among users.
However, going beyond his sterile attempt to garner support and credibility, it’s worth having a shot at decoding this tongue-twister. Why did he say this? What did he say that we didn’t pick up on? What was he responding to?
Nothing happens by chance in politics, we know this all too well. It’s interesting that the independent press only focuses on a general criticism of the leader’s inability to send coherent and empathetic messages, but they fail to analyze the message itself.
I can safely say that the reference of “revolutionizing the revolution” is firstly connected to the recommendation tactfully made by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the Mexican president, on his latest trip to Havana, in the first half of May.
These words that came as camouflaged advice – albeit ignored by the press – was one of the most interesting points of this bilateral meeting. Along with his backing of Cuba after its exclusion from the Summit of the Americas and the Cuban migration problem crossing Mexico in route to the US.
AMLO said, word for word, that he “hoped that the revolution would be reborn within the revolution, and that the revolution is able to renew itself.”
In line with this “suggestion” or “hope”, Silvio Rodriguez – another important figure in Cuba and Latin America, who is just as connected to the Cuban political system as he is to AMLO – wrote in his personal blog Segunda Cita the following, just after (on June 30th):
“It’s clear to me that Cuba needs to revolutionize the revolution like Andres Manuel (Lopez Obrador) suggested on his latest trip. I know it isn’t easy, much less in today’s very difficult situation.
The singer-songwriter said what everyone already knows, that “different real socialist experiences prove that it is doesn’t work, as it was conceived to.” He points out that “the Chinese and Vietnamese experiences are the best up until now: socialist governments leading capitalist economies. I’m not talking about copying them, but coming up with our own version.” He clarified.
A day after Silvio Rodriguez’s statement, I published a letter here on Havana Times called Open Letter to President Miguel Diaz-Canel, where I urge him to follow AMLO’s advice and for the “revolution to be reborn within the revolution”:
“Any serious reform has to be in line with our reality and this urgently requires national reconciliation and a new inclusive social pact, which implies political reform.”
Then, in agreement with Silvio’s blog, I wrote:
“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 nonsence, which far from resolving problems and conflict between Cubans, would only deepen it further.”
Of course, Silvio Rodriguez’s post had a greater impact in independent Cuban and international media, not so much our state-led press. But they were both words of caution to the ruling elite in Cuba about the need to make changes, using AMLO’s words as gunpowder.
I believe that Diaz-Canel’s short video is in response to this, to try and stop so-called appeals for change made by citizens and celebrities, even within the system itself. The idea that these appeals become joint appeals, becoming an outcry, demand, and then having to give in, terrifies him.
But instead of taking this advice and recommendations to heart, he is hellbent on trying to underestimate individual and collective intelligence by trying to convince us that continuity of this system – which doesn’t work and sinks us into poverty – is a form of “revolutionizing the revolution”, of “making changes”, and that it’s the “enemy’s fault”.
Continuity is Cuba’s enemy right now, and this is precisely the duty Diaz-Canel was bestowed by those who gave him power. This is why he isn’t popular despite a thousand campaigns promoting him to the Cuban people. The only way he will win merit and the Cuban people’s respect is if he pushes for change. “Revolutionizing the revolution” or “doing a 180”, means real changes.
Silvio Rodriguez’s message proves that this is the exact opposite of Diaz-Canel’s policy of continuity, when he says: “Where are we heading if we can’t admit what’s happening? It’s absurd that we can’t recognize what’s under our noses.” I make the same warning in my Open Letter: “The country needs to change urgently, and we can’t take one more experiment that is based on continuity.”
“Revolutionizing the revolution” isn’t a utopia or pipe-dream, it’s perfectly possible and now might be the only chance we have for making the change that Cuba needs “with every Cuban and for every Cuban’s wellbeing.” The only thing standing in our way is the PCC’s excessive power, which is being used only for continuity, which suffocates us, instead of making the changes that can save us.