By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
Photos Pam Turner
HAVANA TIMES — We commonly hear the term “neoplatista” to label different attitudes and stances between Cubans. It already appears frequently in our vocabulary, especially among the diaspora community and those of us here in Cuba who take part in political debate on alternative digital media platforms.
If we understand “platismo”* to be the belief that many Cubans share about the need for protectionism, imbrication, dependence and Cuba’s inevitable destiny subordinated to US interests, in the Republic’s untouched moments, we should understand the term “neoplatismo” to be the same, but in today’s context.
There’s no doubt that it has a pejorative meaning. However, it really is a fact, whether it’s accepted as “neoplatismo” or not, that a part of our people believe in this interlocking dependence. Some Cubans want this to a great extent, others not so much, but this political position exists and we need to recognize it.
It’s normal for there to be different political stances and different ways of viewing the country’s future among citizens of the same country. The most important thing here is that the wishes of the majority are respected, without stepping on minorities’ rights to have a vital space where they can express their ideas.
Using this term indiscriminately is really a negative and reprehensible thing to do, due to the stigma that surrounds it. “Platista” or “neoplatista” is the same thing as being pro-US and the majority of Cubans reject such a position vehemently, for whatever reasons.
It has now become fashionable to accuse anyone of being a “neoplatista” in any argument to do with the US, to stop the person who disagrees in their tracks, without needing to argue your point. In these crucial times, when we are fighting for sacred things for our homeland, we need arguments rather than tricks.
It is wise to note that, whether we like it or not, this world has always been ruled by imperialist powers, ever since the first Nations were born. Now, the same thing is happening, but in different conditions. Of course, much has been achieved in equal rights, but we still need time for the day when the global political scene is dominated by real democracies. We haven’t managed to achieve this in every country and Cuba is a sad example of this.
Believing that what the US government does or says has repercussions on our political, economic and social life isn’t outlandish. It is an impossible fact to ignore. Recognizing the fact that any aid or obstacle speeds up or slows down our democratic ambitions doesn’t make you “neoplatista”, it makes you rational. Ignoring these facts doesn’t free you from their consequences.
The Cuban government has spent almost six decades vilifying “Yankee imperialism”, but it knows it is useful for them to have a relationship with them and despite the risk contributes by doing so. Cuban dissidents, who are unable to receive domestic cash funding because of the same system they want to change, receive international aid, especially from our powerful neighbor.
And it’s logical, it isn’t mean-spirited or the action of mercenaries like the government likes to label it and a group of eminent leaders who also repeat this, joining the government’s manipulative and opportunistic discourse, because things are complex or God knows what reason why.
The US has the right to want a certain political future for Cuba, just like Cuba has the right to want a different fate for its neighbor. The Cuban communists in power have always supported their counterparts across the world, not only within the region. They have even been involved in violent events which have caused thousands of deaths, which wouldn’t have been successful without Cuban support.
What the US doesn’t have the right to do, is to directly interfere in Cuban affairs wanting, for example, to impose system X by force. However, supporting dissidents isn’t a crime; it’s a sign of kindness and the belief that the outcome will benefit their own interests. That’s why all aid without conditions is welcome, because the cause for a better, democratic, united and prosperous Cuba, needs a lot of money and it’s impossible to get a hold of this kind of money in Cuba.
Where is better to get it from than the US where nearly 2 million Cubans live and hundreds of thousands more were born and feel Cuban just the same. People are treated like foreigners in Cuba, with no rights, just the benefit, which is stingy in nature, of being able to “repatriate”, as if they could lose their Homeland.
Bolivar traveled to England to ask for help and to sell the interests of the first Republic to Imperial interests. Would he be a mercenary? Marti lived in the US and it was there that his Independence cause was conceived. It was also there where he collected nearly all of the funds that were then used in the war.
The Monroe doctrine already existed, as did the proclamation of Manifest Destiny and the famous Ripe Fruit Theory: can we really call Marti a mercenary? I am mentioning the Apostle, but the same thing happened with many of our heroes.
And if the Cuban community in the 19th century financially helped the Republican (Independence) cause and is recognized for that reason, why does the Cuban community in the 21st century have to be mercenary for helping the just as important democratic cause? Do you see how absurd these arguments are and how silly it is of us to fall into the psychological trap that the system is promoting to prevent change?
However, if it’s silly for us to fall into this trap, it’s even sillier and more harmful for us to block national debate with a neutralizing term such as that of “neoplatista”. Those who use it don’t weigh in the psycho-social effects it has.
By using it, opposing arguments don’t win, nor is the dialogue enriched; they are only chasing them away and intimidating them. Its real meaning has nothing or very little to do with the current state of things in Cuba, even when there are really Cubans who want greater dependence on our powerful neighbor.
It is rather a kind of double-edged sword, which cuts what we want to cut on the one hand, and on the other, cuts into our own hands without us even realizing.