Should We Struggle for Total Change or to Reform the System?

Havana photo by Juan Suarez

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

HAVANA TIMES – When people want to achieve a social goal, they should always consider some basic premises like: how necessary is it? how much do people want it? and how ready are we to do it?

The Cuban political opposition’s general social goal has been to build a Cuba with political democracy, economic freedom and full human rights. This is the minimum for every Cuban. Then, there are details between one political group and another that make up this great opposition conglomerate, which must be plural for obvious reasons.

However, it’s clear that these details should wait until a democracy is established, and then they can each fight for them at the polls. Right now, the common good of all Cubans is what’s most important.

The opposition is very active on social media and their main strategy is to wipe out the entire system, the Communist Party (PCC), and anything that has to do with socialism or the current system. Firstly, the Constitution that upholds it, and some are asking for a constitutional assembly and others are asking to reinstate the 1940 Constitution.

An important and pretty much inevitable point, the determinant, of this aspiration for change (because it hasn’t formalized into a plan) is justice or serving justice to representatives of the system who have committed crimes or harassment or economic damage to Cubans in order to push forward or protect the system they call “revolution”.  This has been the strategy for change that you most read about, hear, and see.

But the reality is that they aren’t getting anywhere with this strategy, there doesn’t seem to be any light on the horizon that change is possible in this way, and there hasn’t been a mass display of support to follow them. In fact, the general population seems indifferent to the opposition’s calls to cooperate. The Cuban people aren’t following them. When they fall on their faces or knees, they are on their own criticizing the Cuban people, looking for an explanation and concluding that the Cuban people deserve to suffer at the PCC’s hands.

But it would be interesting to ask these three questions that serve as premises:

How necessary is it?

There’s no doubt that it would be amazing if we could start all over from scratch, it’s the ideal scenario in social matters, but rarely possible. We are aspiring for an ideal model of change, that’s it. It would be incredible if the PCC left power voluntarily and said, “it’s up to you now, we failed, we will submit ourselves to your justice to pay for the consequences of our mistakes,” or overthrow them, although that doesn’t seem possible.

What are the real chances of this happening? Anyone with common sense would say they’re very low. So, we understand they are trying to guide the people towards a strategy with low chances of success and the Cuban people don’t follow them intuitively. A flock of sheep or do they have common sense? This would make sense if it were the only option, but it isn’t.

How much do the people want it?

The Cuban people have been trained for decades to love and defend the Revolution as something sacred, as the source of their freedom and independence, as their chances at a better world. Over this same period of time, US Imperialism and the blockade have been blamed for its economic failures and the iron fist that has been dealt to dissident voices. The blockade does exist.

Despite the problems we suffer and hearing other versions and interpretations of our social reality, it makes sense that a significant group of our people continue to believe in this discourse and even those who don’t believe in the system are hesitant to stand up to the “revolution”.

What doesn’t make sense is that many opposition members can’t understand this, they haven’t factored it in, they don’t assume it as a reality that is nourished and base their expectations upon it. No, in fact they are basing their expections on an illusion that has nothing to do with our social reality.

Any plan or strategy for change with any prospect of succeeding needs to be popular, please people, captivate them, motivate them and be something that doesn’t mean jumping over the hole without any hope of making it. It can’t frighten the Cuban people and they need to want it; this is the key.

How ready are we to go after it?

The reality is that not even the opposition is ready, united, or organized enough to beat the PCC, nor are they focused on understanding Cuban reality, to the point that they are making up what the people want, what they need and what can be followed, supported, and achieved in terms of political, economic, and social change.

Their desire for “justice” is praiseworthy though, but it can’t be above the need for change itself, like it is presented a lot of the time. It can’t be a premise, nor can it be one-sided, because there are complaints on both sides, and it would be counterproductive.

This isn’t the time for whims or pig-headedness. It’s the time for deep reflection and clear words. We have to move forward. We Cubans can’t keep waiting for the ideal scenario, nor do we want a civil war to the death where there are winners and losers. It’s better for this to be a peaceful transition and we all come out winners.

It is the duty of the pacific opposition to mature in political terms and outline a viable strategy for change towards a political democracy with economic freedom and full human rights, that allows us to come out of this current crisis and rise up as a nation. It’s very unlikely this change will come from the PCC, because they will need a good dose of humility and let go a lot, so we can only dream about this, not hope for it to happen. It’s up to the opposition to be objective.

Read more by Osmel Ramirez here.

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.

7 thoughts on “Should We Struggle for Total Change or to Reform the System?

  • Robert:

    Some belated advice. Right from the get go, Canadian fruits and vegetables such as a banana or an apple on your carry-on luggage will not be allowed in the country. Packaged food such as a bag of cookies is permitted.

    Any Canadian tourist, or any tourist visiting Cuba for that matter, needs to differentiate between personal carry-on luggage and the heavier non carry-on luggage stored in the underbelly of the aircraft.

    Carry-on luggage is strictly monitored on entry to Cuba. The luggage must pass through electronic customs procedures so any unauthorized “gifts” will be ceased and taxed for entry. Limit the amount of “gifts” in this suitcase to a few medicines, a few toiletries, a pair of shoes, pencils, balloons, etc. These items can be easily explained as personal affects, such as the mentioned bag of cookies, and will not be taxed.

    In a tourists non carry-on luggage that comes off the plane after landing and the tourist waits for his/her luggage as it rolls on the conveyor belt, this luggage is not checked unless the tourist has many such suitcases which will draw suspicion from custom authorities, and may be checked.

    If the tourist has one, perhaps two, reasonably sized non carry-on suitcases many more “gifts” can be packed in them. For children, all kinds of school supplies – pencils, erasers, coloring pencils, coloring books, notebooks, perhaps a tablet, a cheap cell phone, clothing, shoes, balloons, balls. Medicines for children, aspirins, vitamins, cough syrups, scabies cream, all in limited supply.

    For adults, medicines such as aspirins, spices for cooking, clothing, footwear, toiletries, toothpaste, toothbrushes, colognes, deodorants, again in limited supply.

    All these items in limited supply can be brought into the country with no fear of financial repercussions. Again, make sure to differentiate between carry-on luggage which will be strictly monitored upon entry, and non-carry-on luggage.

    Small burner stoves? That item, though much needed in Cuba, for sure, will be monitored and probably ceased at the airport. The Cuban authorities will no doubt have you pay exorbitant tax on the item because they will tell you the item can be purchased in Cuba as a “gift”. Why are you bringing it to Cuba? Not recommended.

    Have that item in your suitcase and that will draw suspicion on all your suitcases and personal items. The Cuban customs agents will go through a thorough analysis causing tremendous personal delay and perhaps additional tax on items that could have gone through untaxed.

    Circles Robinson has provided a web address for your further edification.

  • Could Havana Times post what is Permitted for Canadian Tourist what we Bring as Gifts for Cubans without being Taxed at the air ports in Cuba. Is Food & Health care permitted, Clothing & foot wear, Electrical for cooking, small burner stoves. Canadian Needs your help. Thank you Havana Times

  • This is that one time, when any one that dose not live on the Island should Keep it to ourselves & permit the Cubanos to Solve their indifferences they may have. In a kind way I wish for Peace over the Cuban Island.

  • Osmel writes a clever and nuanced article as he always does.
    He puts forward some interesting points regarding the actual reality and the various dilemmas involved. This reality and these dilemmas will not go away in some magical puff of capitalist dogma.
    Cuba’s problems are caused to a significant extent by anti capitalist dogma. Caused by a rigid economic orthodoxy. These problems cannot possibly be resolved by pro capitalist dogma. Or by adopting an alternative rigid economic orthodoxy.
    A tragedy occurred in Texas just a couple of days ago.
    53 dead?
    My understanding is that there are many people desperate to get away from failing capitalist countries. Capitalism is a system of winners and losers. It’s great if you are a winner, but not so good if you’re dead from suffocation in the back of a truck in Texas.
    Going by the available facts, anyone who thinks that modern day de regulated capitalism, could possibly be an answer to all the world’s problems is probably deluded.
    The answers can seem elusive. But I agree with Osmel that this should not stop people from trying to find them.

  • Olga, Cuba was a police state before Castro. The main reason Cuba was “prosperous “ in the previous 58 years is that the US owned almost everything in Cuba, including utilities like the phone system and over 70 percent of businesses. Many of the US owned companies paid their workers slave wages. Also the literacy rate in the countryside was only 50 or 60 percent and there was extreme poverty. One of the best things Fidel did when he took over was getting rid of the American presence and control of Cuba.

  • Cuba needs a democratic system with open markets, freedom of press, and respect for humans rights a capitalist society. Look around and see how much prosperous Cuba was in the republic 58 years of capitalism did more that 63 of the Castro’s family dictatorship. When you think that Cuba in 1958 was more prosperous that Belgium, Spain, and Ireland a nation of immigrants and to see what the whole island has become says a lot.

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