A Needed Gift to the Cuban Government

By Ernesto Perez Castillo  (Progreso Semanal)

Newspaper seller. Photo: Cubahora.cu

HAVANA TIMES – Almost right at the end of his presidency, in one of the last interviews he gave as president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa reflected upon what was missing during his time in office, what he missed, what he wished he had had and would have helped him to govern the country better and be more attentive to his people’s needs. His words were, and I quote him: “we deserved a better opposition.”

Now that the euphoria of having a new president is slowly vanishing here in Cuba, now that Diaz-Canel is about to celebrate his first six months as the head of the Cuban government, it’s worth taking a moment to seriously think about and give a great gift to the new president so that he doesn’t make a similar complaint to Correa’s, so that he doesn’t complain to us ten years later, if he is still in office which seems to be likely as he will probably serve two consecutive presidential terms.

To tell you the truth, I honestly don’t know how much Correa was missing the aforementioned (better opposition), but here in Cuba, we’ve been missing a better opposition for a long time now. And this would be a good time for it to make its debut. Not a circus opposition which, in the end, is just many heads of the same Hydra. No, I’m talking about an opposition that takes the pan by the handle and whacks you over the head if you become sloppy and don’t allow you to sweep nonsense under the carpet.

Right now, the new Constitution is about to be approved and in Article 60. it seems to be hinting at this when it states “recognizing citizens’ freedom of the press.” Right now, I don’t know how we are supposed to digest this piece of information (with a spoon, fork, Chinese chopsticks?), while four-page newspapers that circulate the island, all of which are affiliated to the Communist Party or government (which isn’t the same thing but is at the same time), are our only press.

We would have to experience (let me dream here) a news collective, a newspaper that isn’t a spokesperson for any official institution, but of the people who walk our streets, a newspaper that doesn’t just serve those above to communicate with those below but, the complete opposite, for those below to communicate with each other, and for them to say what they think, what they want, what old pains they have locked up in their hearts, what pebble they have that’s bothering them in their shoes, to whoever wants to read them in this newspaper’s pages.

Then, we would clearly see that so much freedom of press and speech are possible, as the Constitution states.

Because our press today, which we have right now, is taking poor and bad steps when it comes to the President. Every TV news program, three times a day, every day, every week and every month, starts off with three different, but identical, reports about what Diaz-Canel has done that day, and then another two reports where the protagonist is one of his vice-presidents. They must be following some kind of official guideline, they might even be overdoing it, but they aren’t informing us of very much at all, and that’s me being nice.

However, the job that our press still needs to do, which is huge, isn’t only a job for national press. And not everything has to be written down. There wouldn’t be a need to put a spanner in the works (there are already more than enough), but we do need to keep an eye (all of us or a few) on the press but also on social media where anyone can speak freely, so that things keep spinning, so that [the flow of information] doesn’t stop because someone says so, and so that we can continue making progress (at a slower or faster pace, whichever is best). In this way, we would be able to see this not only on TV news programs but in life, in what people are talking about, in their happiness, in their pockets and their fulfilling lives.

When everyone is clapping you on and smiling at you, governing a country is a piece of cake. I would like the Cuban president, Diaz-Canel or whoever it is, to have to rule by winning over the majority’s approval and green light, day after day. To have to explain every initiative, every law, every change to the population in excruciating detail and convince us, running the risk that we might disapprove it and stop it from moving forward.

Not explaining to Parliament or the Council of Ministers, but to us, the people, the people he works for, the people who pay his income (whatever that is and if only the Cuban president’s salary is enough for them to live), the people who he governs in the name of, administrating what is ours.

And it would be good, for a responsible opposition (otherwise it wouldn’t be good for anything) to be an objective opposing counterbalance, aware of their importance and the need for their counterweight in the search for social harmony. An opposition who takes their citizenship seriously and doesn’t take an eye or foot off the government, who let’s them feel a jab in their ribs from time to time so that they don’t forget: that they aren’t the owners of the country, they just serve the people.

This would be a great gift for the president: an opposition that is worthwhile. I like that idea. Sign me up!

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