Uncle Sam’s Cuban Cousins

By Fernando Ravsberg

A former US diplomatic chief in Cuba at his residence, surrounded by Cuban dissidents. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s opposition seems tragically destined to cling to the skirts of the United States, in the hopes the latter’s strength will legitimate them in the eyes of their compatriots. It is a poor strategy that has earned them isolation at home, something even Washington has acknowledged.

They were kept out of negotiations between Obama and Castro – one could even say they were the last to find out about them. Now, following the new state of affairs that came into being on December 17, 2014, they feel as disoriented as a Swede in Burundi.

As Washington and Havana begin to change their language and ways of relating, the opposition continues to use the same discourse from 10, 20 and even 30 years ago. They’ve been resorting to the same strategy since 1959, to seek shelter under the umbrella of “the Americans.”

First, they dreamed of an invasion by the marines, then with a blockade that would bring their compatriots to their knees through hunger, later they tried terrorist bombings and, finally, they put together a “peaceful opposition,” financed by Washington with US $20,000,000 a year.

Now, they are pressuring Obama to make his visit to Cuba conditional on Raul Castro’s acceptance of “a formal gathering with representatives of the opposition.” They insist that, without this, the trip “will only serve to consolidate the totalitarian regime and not to empower pro-democracy actors.”

It’s surprising they haven’t noticed the Cuban revolution became consolidated in the 1960s, to such an extent that it did not even collapse when it lost the support of the Soviet Union. To lose touch with reality can prove catastrophic in politics.

Cuban dissidents are only able to mobilize few hundreds of people.

They add that the visit “would strengthen the determination of the Castro regime to maintain its current position.” What could strengthen Raul Castro’s position more than the acknowledgement that the greatest world power failed in its attempts to overthrow his government by force?

To sit at the negotiations table with the government, one need be a real political force, be it military (such as the FARC in Colombia), taken to power via elections (such as the Venezuelan opposition) or in terms of an ability to mobilize the masses (such as Solidarity in Poland).

The Cuban opposition, however, seems to be looking for the limelight by going against the wishes of the majority of Cuban and US citizens. They continue to spark off confrontation and to try to impose on Havana conditions it has rejected for more than half a century.

Cuban dissidents say that the “US government should not give up its leadership and commitment to democracy and its defenders.” This phrase summarizes the true relationship between Washington and Cuba’s opposition like no other.

The leadership they’ve handed the United States in Cuba’s internal affairs has been their worst curse, for it has made them prioritize Washington’s political and human rights agenda, over and above the concrete, daily economic demands of their compatriots.

To make matters worse, the Cuban government lifted restrictions on travel and the opposition spends so much time abroad that, in Miami, they are referred to as “the traveling dissidents.” Perhaps, if they spent this money in political work with Cubans, they would have a much greater impact on the population.

President Obama may meet with a number of dissidents, many others before him have done so, but a long, long road separates this from trying to insist on the presence of Cuba’s opposition at the negotiations table.

It is healthy for a government to have critics, but, in order to play that role, dissidents need to “update” their strategies. As it is, with each day that passes, the opposition languishes, to the point of getting dangerously close to brain death.

These were the only two Ladies in White who had a place at the negotiations table between Cubans and Americans.

11 thoughts on “Uncle Sam’s Cuban Cousins

  • So my elderly parents, nostalgic for a pre Castro Cuba that didn’t see the Island in ruins is pro Batista, is that it? How bad must the Castro regime be that the only choice available to comparing itself to the Batista government as a way to distinguish itself

  • Think about your last comment. If a retired Cuban doctor living in Miami who was living in Havana before 1959 waxes nostalgic about his “good ole’ days” before Castro took his livelihood away and forced him into exile in Miami, he is labeled a Batistano. Is that fair? Let’s say he was a 25 year old non-political MD in 1959. He’s 80 years old today. How much of a threat can he be?

  • What capable opposition member is exiled, jailed or murdered. Oswaldo Paya died in a car crash. The worst that can be alleged is that the car was driving too fast after being chased by minint agents. Even that is speculation, but if true that doesn’t amount to murder. Take the similar case of Princess Diana being chased by the paparazzi. Nobody was prosecuted for murder. In both cases the driver should have just slowed the car down and stopped.

    I have a lot of respect for Oswaldo Paya though I don’t totally share his views. He at least worked peacefully and positively for change and distanced himself from Washington’s policies. However as wikileaks says in recent years he became out of touch. Too Catholic really for a country such as Cuba.

  • No one is going to come out and admit that exactly. But extreme nostalgia for that era for example describing Cuba under Batista as “a little golden cup” or paying respects to someone who tried to get Batista supporters back into power is very close to actually supporting Batista himself.

  • That’s ok Moses, I’m quite sure that rich doesn’t know any so called “batistanos” either, as that is a fiction of his imagination. Now if he wishes to paint all anti-Castro activists as such then ok, I’ll proudly wear his mantle.

    Perhaps even Rich is to busy seching for Batistas mythical piano full of cash to really know

  • I can’t speak for “Batistianos”. I am not quite sure that I know who they are and I have never met any Cubans who claim to support the dictatorship that preceded the current one in Cuba. By the way, I don’t feel forced to agree at all with Fernando’s views in this post.

  • National pride has always been underestimated by both the Left and the Right.

    The Old Left believed that among the working class, ‘class interests’, expressed as working class internationalist consciousness, would override national feelings. The RIght, that personal self-interest would. And so it has proved, but only among a minority. Successful Leftists and Rightists have always incorporated a strong dose of patriotism, even nationalism, into their political programs.

    There have been exceptions to this rule — the Poles welcomed the US in their struggle to throw off Russian domination, because the Americans were not seen as potential replacements for Russian influence. American revolutionaries accepted French help in their fight against the British, because no one could say that they were pawns of the French monarchy.

    But for Cubans, to be seen as supplicants of the United States is a huge disadvantage. They put themselves in the same position as the Communist Party of the United States put itself, when it became seen (rightly) as an obedient agent of the Soviet Union, rather than as a native expression of American radicalism.

    Of course, effective dissident leaders will face danger. Thank goodness that the Cuban state is not like the mass-murdering American-endorsed death-squad regimes that ruled much of Latin America in recent decades!

  • Well, Moses, its is interesting that a truly unbiased and informed journalist such as Fernando Ravsberg, when he is permitted by Havana Times.org to express his views, makes at least some salient points that you are forced to agree with. Since 1959, after the U. S. teamed with the Mafia to support the vile Batista dictatorship in Cuba, the exiled Batistianos who fled the Cuban Revolution, through two generations now, have not, amazingly, regained control of Cuba but, by “hiding behind the skirts” of the world’s economic and military superpower (as Ravsberg so eloquently explained) have accomplished two things: (1) Shaming the U. S. democracy, and (2) enriching and empowering themselves. No amount of Batistiano propaganda can adequately disguise those two facts. Yet, even “hiding behind the skirts” of the world’s superpower hasn’t enabled the Batistianos to regain control of the gorgeous island. How come? The world awaits your answer, Moses.

  • Excellent point.

  • The fact that the more dangerous opposition members (read capable) are exiled, jailed, or murdered, like Oswaldo Payá and his Varela project, might have something to do with that.

  • On this point, I agree with Fernando. For the most part, the Castro opposition (Cuban opposition is a misnomer) has failed to rally the average Cuban to support their cause. During the height of the US Civil Rights movement in the mid-1960s, no more than 1 out of 10 African Americans bothered to march, sit-in, or boycott. Yet, even with these low numbers the movement was relatively successful. The Castro opposition fails to motivate even 1 out of 100 Cubans. It’s probably less than 1 out of 1000. While the average Cuban is disenchanted at the very least and most are discouraged, Opposition leadership has failed to convince the average Cuban that they have a viable solution.

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