By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
Dear Mr. (Fake) Obama,
HAVANA TIMES — I want to thank you, honestly, for speaking on behalf of a man as busy as President Obama, and for replying with the views that, in your judgment, could comprise his response. I am pleased with your attitude, and I respect the opinions you’ve shared.
I refer to you as “Fake Obama” because, as anyone will immediately note, the ideas and positions you express do not resemble those of the real Obama in the least. At most, they are a Fidelista version of the postures of the current US president.
Apparently, you did not read my letter in any depth. I am not a pro-US Cuban. I am not an apologist of neoliberal capitalism. I also do not particularly like the United States’ political system, with its two-chamber, electoral structure. I could continue to enumerate those things that leave me unsatisfied about that system, but I believe this is enough.
I am a follower of Jose Marti’s ideas and, like my teacher, I appreciate the values and greatness of that vast country. Like him, I also recognize its terrible shortcomings and know the danger these represent for all of our nations.
In my article/letter, I referred to the United States as a superpower with certain interests. I did this respectfully, as is my custom. Like many, I dream of a better world, without superpowers, subjugation and injustice. But this is not the reality we live in and we must adapt.
I do not by any means believe that US democracy is perfect, but I have no doubt it is a democracy. The fact it’s been degraded by money and operates as a plutocracy, this is something everyone knows. I do not aspire to have its model set up in my country, I would rather see a renewed democratic system that is more effective still.
You should re-read my letter, Fake Obama, as at no point do I ask the president to help us establish capitalism in Cuba. We already have State capitalism here and the people endure the worst of this system, which take us back to its mercantilist origins: low salaries and shop windows with unreachable products. Of course we would be better off with a freer system.
I am not even speaking of capitalism. What I ask is that pressure be applied so that a referendum is held in Cuba. Evidently, a Fidelista version of Obama like the one you concocted, is terrified by the idea of consulting the people.
For the Cuban government, democracy means rallying thousands of people who have been signed up on a list, so that, holding paper flags in their hands, they can cheer an official proclamation. It means voting processes controlled by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, where officials go to your home to pressure you into participating. Even when they’re alone in front of the ballot box, people fear the ballot may be marked and an adverse vote could be traced back to them.
In connection with the issue of democracy, curiously, you use the same arguments deployed by Cuban leaders to justify governing without a popular vote: “there are several ways to understand democracy and a wide range of models.” It’s true, there are differences regarding certain aspects of this system and there isn’t a single form of democracy. But Cuba does not have a different model of democracy, it simply has no democracy.
The people merely approve government policy under the coercion of the State’s social control mechanisms. They do not elect any important candidates, candidacy committees are mere scapegoats and voting is a rigorously-controlled formality.
To mention the approval of Cuba’s 1976 constitution is to set up a “fool’s trap,” as Cubans say. At least one fourth of Cuba’s population – the most educated, powerful and dissenting people – left the country, leaving behind the humble who had benefitted from the revolution. They and their descendants were indoctrinated with the one-idea system, and their nationalism was inflamed by the confrontations of the Cold War.
Because of the hopes that the revolution represented at the time, and there being no other options to consider or voices to hear, it is natural people approved everything put to them. This process of indoctrination involved the destruction of civic sentiments and encouraged blind faith in the wisdom of the great leader and his vanguard party. There are more than enough arguments to support this.
Regarding the referendum called to ratify the irrevocable nature of Cuba’s socialist system, allow me to refer to my own, personal experience: I voted “yes” out of a sense of inertia, like nearly everyone else. Not to vote meant drawing attention to oneself, being called unpatriotic and having doors close on one unnecessarily.
Beyond a manipulative discourse referring to a group of paid lackeys of imperialism, who wanted to take advantage of our laws to destroy the revolution with a project that profaned the name of a past patriot, we had no other information about the reasons for this referendum.
No one considered the vote important and no significant information was divulged. We also never had a chance to see the Varela Project for ourselves, nor did we ever hear directly from its proponents. Later, when I acquired intellectual maturity, I read the constitution and saw a huge contradiction on this issue, for the people, as the sovereign, are entitled to change the entire constitution, socialism and all.
Therefore, Fake Obama, re-read my letter and learn to be objective about our country. Do the same, also, with your political stances, because people who make excuses for bad practices, who believe the ends justify the means and that freedom can be attained by undermining freedom, are the ones who keep this country from moving forward. Is that what you defend?
I was clear in my previous letter: I do not hate the revolution or its leaders. I lost faith in them when I discovered that they’re more interested in remaining in power than in the people’s wellbeing, and that they are unwilling to sacrifice their privileges for a better Cuba.
I’m a socialist, I say this without any kind of ideological romanticism. I believe in true democracy and in a market economy without laissez faire. I won’t go into the details of this here, but you should know many of my readers do not share my ideology but do have my sense of ethics, sincerity and concern over Cuba. That is already an interesting and productive link.
To conclude, Fake Obama, I would like to be even more frank with you. To put yourself in the position you did doesn’t suit you, from the standpoint of your own ideology. I promise I will soon also be writing a letter to Raul Castro, where you will have the opportunity to write the reply he won’t offer me. You will doubtless feel more comfortable in that task.
Grateful for your understand, I remain,
Osmel Ramírez Álvarez