Among Cubans: Confrontation or Dialogue

Fernando Ravsberg*

Cuban immigrants honoring independence leader Jose Marti in Havana’s Central Park. (Photo: Raquel Perez)

HAVANA TIMES, March 1 — When I arrived in Cuba, the Torricelli Act (1992) was being promoted by Washington and Miami to tighten the US embargo, continuing with the old approach of sharpening the crisis so as to force Cubans to rise up against their government.

In the end, the politics of confrontation based on the actions of the powerful northern neighbor served only to strengthen the “siege mentality” and allow propaganda to succeed at making the US and Cuban exiles into those “responsible for all of the evils” the people suffered.

The enemies of Castro lost a golden opportunity to win the hearts of their countrymen on the island. At that time, to change their image it would have been enough to lift the blockade on the sale of medicine and food.

Since the 60’s, the commitment to confrontation has always been accompanied by farfetched political or economic analysis predicting the imminent end of the revolution.

No one knows how many times they have repeated the words “now it’s over.”

The Catholic Church and some Western governments, tired of waiting for the “final hour,” received the ire of the most radical exile crowd when they decided to explore paths that pursued dialogue and even cooperation.

They are now seeing a new stage marked by the massive release of prisoners, the commutation of death sentences, the authorization of self-employment and the end of many absurd prohibitions, such as those that prevented Cubans from entering hotels or selling their homes.

Within this framework is included a new openness to citizens living abroad. President Raul Castro took a decisive step by publicly acknowledging that most migrants are patriotic and supportive with Cubans on the island.

It's not the first time that Cuban emigrants meet with the government. Photo: Raquel Perez

Times have changed so much that even hardline exiles such as Carlos Saladrigas are seeking dialogue and rejecting the embargo. They are giving up on the “strategy of trying to harm the Cuban regime by harming the people.”

The entrepreneur leads a group that supports the reforms promoted by the Raul Castro government, promotes the respect of sovereignty and the rights of Cubans, and is offering ideas to improve the nation’s economic situation.

“We never aspire to impose our will, only the right to put ideas and projects on the table,” said Saladrigas. He is proposing to provide loans to self-employed workers while recognizing that “many entrepreneurs in exile want to invest in Cuba in partnership with Cubans on the island.”

Now the Raul Castro government has convened a meeting in Washington with the émigré community, an event that will be attended by invitation only according to émigré sociologist Haroldo Dilla in an article in which he explains his refusal to participate in the dialogue.

Dilla says the Cuban government is not “a legitimate representative of the nation, the same way that one cannot limit emigrants to a group of people whose selection is based on their ideological and emotional closeness to that government.”

Dilla believes that the call is because the island is in “desperate need of the money and the participation of emigrants in the capitalist restructuring of Cuban society and for the post-revolutionary bourgeois elite.”

Although the Torricelli Act was wrong, in the ‘90s there were plenty of reasons to believe that a little more pressure would be enough to overthrow the revolution. But in 2012 to say that Cuba cannot survive without the investment of Miami seems like madness.

To start with, to succeed at making investments, Cuban emigrants don’t need a conference. It would be enough for the Cuban government to give authorization to people like Carlos Saladrigas to go ahead with the plans they have wanted to realize for some time now.

In these meetings the emigrants have access to top figures of the Cuban government. . Photo: Raquel Perez

In addition, Cuba has trade relations with all of Latin America, South-South exchange that is bearing fruit from Venezuela to Angola, Chinese loans, a $5 billion reserve and Repsol exploring for oil in a seabed off the island’s coast.

Therefore the problem seems more political and human. It’s clear that many emigrants don’t sympathize with the government, and the feeling is mutual. But these decades of confrontation between Cubans have only served to bleed the nation dry.

It’s true that immigrants were stripped of their property on the island, deprived of their right to citizenship, and sometimes abused (like in the Mariel boatlift). But the fact remains that exiles organized assassinations, kidnappings, bombings, invasions and the downing of civilian aircraft.

The community of immigrants and exiles must now decide whether it’s worth accepting the offer of dialogue offered by the Cuban government. Dilla attempts to pre-empt this by raising the dramatic warning that attendance at the meeting will serve only to prop up the “scaffolding.”

Others like Carlos Saladrigas are saying that today’s immigrants have to “contribute to the debate concerning change,” adding, “Raul Castro has called on all Cubans to present their ideas to contribute to a better Cuba, and Cubans such as us are doing so.”
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*An authorized Havana Times translation of the original published in Spanish by BBC Mundo.


12 thoughts on “Among Cubans: Confrontation or Dialogue

  • May 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm
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    The dream of converting the exile into an ally is a utopia. Polarization process driven along the last 5 decades in Cuba caused huge sores in the weakest part of the society that escaped the hate to become exiles……. as long this polarization process continues in Cuba by repression, beatings, jail and killing there is no possibility that the new exiles leaving Cuba can become cured of their painful life experiences. Furthermore the hate of the Castro government reach us in exile when we are mistreated each time we visit our country and by abusive fees asked by regime for any legal document. This hate exported around the world to discredit exiles and discredit the Cuban people that dares not to be slaves inside Cuba keeps open the sores caused by polarization.
    The day the real victims (most of the exiles) meet castro’s representatives showing a real regret of all crimes committed over the years, that put aside the hate and bring a real message of reconciliation, then the meeting can be taken seriously….. but this bluff is just as said: castro supporters meeting castro officials… more in the hate play of the regime on Cubans.

  • March 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm
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    Luis, apology accepted.
    I believe it is going down on its own. The system is not self sustaining. It needs of external forces to survive.
    Just like it happen in Europe.

  • March 8, 2012 at 8:18 pm
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    “Luis, a Cuban who have suffered the regime should know better.”

    “You I can understand because they have successfully brainwash you.”
    Him, he knows but he purposely taken the side of criminals.”

    First, the argument from authority – mankind possess reason so one can construct their own knowledge and opinions not only based on his/her personal experience. You may have an opinion about my country (Brazil) without having to live here, and so on.
    Second, the “brainwash” thing has offended me. I know I have labeled you as “naive” before (about how things work in the US and other so-called democracies) and I humbly apologize plus, as anybody can see, I stopped this low-level type of discussion. So gimme a break, would you?
    Third, you didn’t answer my question: how should the Cuban regime go down? War? Another Revolution? Generational change?

  • March 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm
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    Luis, a Cuban who have suffered the regime should know better.

    Is exactly like a slave saying slavery is good after is free and ignoring the millions still enslave.
    I have little patience for those that in full knowledge act as if the regime have not done the things it did.

    You I can understand because they have successfully brainwash you.
    Him, he knows but he purposely taken the side of criminals.

  • March 8, 2012 at 8:59 am
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    You obviously want the Cuban regime to “go to the dust bin of history”. But how?
    And also, why the anger, Julio? Why the ‘my side – your side’ position? You used to be more calm when discussing with me for example – a person who vehemently disagrees with you. What happened?

  • March 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm
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    Alberto, I am not going to discuss much of what you talk about but this

    “So, rather than err on the side of the powerful as the posture assumed by many, I will never join forces with those calling for bloodshed, death and destruction in Cuba.”

    Nobody is calling for bloodshed and death or destruction of Cuba. Cuba is not a regime, Cuba is not the Castro family.
    Many Cubans do have the same position as the government of other nations with regards to Cuba but not because those nations have that position and even if that was the case. There is nothing wrong with it.

    Alberto, you are on the side of those that repress the people of Cuba. Those that have murdered many Cubans.
    Those that provoke that more than 20 percent of the Cuban population had to go into exile. You are on the side of those that treat Cuba as their own personal farm. How could you?

    Please do not bring Marti and Maceo into this. I am sure both would have been on our side. Is a dishonor to them what you do.

  • March 6, 2012 at 11:22 am
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    Alberto Futurology and no fear of being called “People like you”, resides in freeing my conscience for whatever may bad happen in Cuba, my beloved land, today, tomorrow or ever.

    I have seen many poorly thought out , unreflecting, contemptuous decisions lead to results saturated by instant gratification, sense of vindication, euphoria, we may not be able to live with very long or even regret our actions.

    Libya, is a case study for all of us, concerned with the present and future of our country. Many people in eastern Libya were incited, organized through social media and probably supported financially, politically and ideologically by foreign interest.

    The government of Moammar Gadaffi felt threatened after he was pursuaded by many purporting to be a friend, into turning over his “weapons of mass destruction”, which lead him to utter his death sentence: “He would be mercilessly with the traitors in the east”

    This was the argument, the precondition that powerful forces interested solely in Libya’s enormous oil resources needed to send in the bombers, tanks, rockets, killing thousands of innocent Libyans, destroying and turning cities upon cities into rubble, and committing the most heinious crime in modern history, by viciously murdering the leader of that country in front of TV cameras, by a horde of mercenaries.

    Today, that country lies in shambles, more and more deaths are occurring among factions, tribes and religious groups jostling for power, while the culprits in France, England, Katar, Saudi Arabia and the US, sit oblivious, indifferent to the daily torment, suffering and deaths in a country, ravished by an unnecessary and unjustifiable war.

    Similar attempt have been incubated, nurtured, instructed, funded and sent into battle since 1999 by US-AID, this time in the form of dissenting Afro-Cubans living abroad, to divide and incite Afro-Cubans in Cuba, who rightfully, justifiably so, are upset, angry and demand justice from their government, who have not come out in a timely fashion, forcefully enough, to stamp out vestiges of racism, segregation, marginalization and abuse, existing in that country since 1513.

    On the eve of the 100 anniversary of worst massacre in Cuba’s history in 1912, many voices from abroad are attempting to extrapolate and transform an honest grief into a battle cry similar to ones coming out of Benghazi or Holms in Syria.

    Cuba is not Libia, Cuba is not Iraq, Cuba is not Grenada, Cuba is not the Dominican Republic nor Panama. Cubans were thought that to die for their homeland is to live and that has been proven over and over.

    So, rather than err on the side of the powerful as the posture assumed by many, I will never join forces with those calling for bloodshed, death and destruction in Cuba. I am willing and ready as long as I can, to continue to speak up, meet with whomever, denounce what I feel is wrong, suggest what can benefit the bulk of our people, rather than pushing our country into an irreversible path of death and destruction and serve the independence and sovereingty of our county in a silver platter, to those who have always despised us.

    Marti and Maceo said it better than anyone, more than 100 years ago. That is my doctrine! Hope others have theirs.

  • March 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm
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    Futurology and misplaced assertions again – where did Alberto “equate Cuba to the current Cuban regime”?

  • March 4, 2012 at 6:03 pm
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    Alberto you can not equate Cuba to the current Cuban regime. Cuba is not the Cuban regime.
    Regimes come and go. This one sooner or later will go to the dust bin of history. We will forget about the Castros.

    One day kids will ask in disbelieve how did we manage to lived without freedom for more than 50 years?

    We will have to say. For people like you.

  • March 4, 2012 at 11:46 am
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    CORRECTION,
    My remarks were meant to be addressed to ALBERTO

  • March 4, 2012 at 11:44 am
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    Nicely said Fernando, thank you.

    These meetings are the essence of democracy and of a working together so badly needed in all societies, not just Cuba’s.

    Would that the periodic PCC and CDR meetings could be conducted in the same manner of respect
    .

  • March 3, 2012 at 10:42 pm
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    A frequently found human response to real or perceived harm that may or may not have been done to anyone, is an intrinsic, humoral defensive inability to isolate facts, fictions, logic, reason, pain, justice or fairness, from a hurt and predisposed brain function, with limited discerning capabilities.

    Sadly, many Cubans may have suffered traumatizing injustices in our country,where thousands of human errors, mistakes, blunders have occurred, which may have mentally handicapped us for life. Overcoming such devastating moral, neurological and psychological effects are comparable only to severe illegal drug addition, from which, most never recover.

    For me who saw my life, years of studies and what some assumed was a bright future go down the drain overnight in 1974, as a result of horrendous fabrications in a kangaroo court dominated by crooks turned eyewitness, grudge, my opposition to the incipient corruption that have engulfed the nation and the ever present racism in many, created a monstrous miscarriage of justice, that happily others, not me, will have to live with.

    As part of the selective few who have kicked their drug addition, I was able to overcome my deep bitterness and frustrations, that enabled me to be involved for many years in humanitarian activities, where I learned about human suffering and death. Out of the blue, I was invited and participated in two previous meetings of La Nacion y La Emigracion.

    To describe these events as therapeutic, surgical, rehabilitating, curative would not accurately define what it meant to me and so many others. We saw men and women in tears, not denying their past effort to decapitate the Cuban government or pretending to be rehabilitated, but rather, for experiencing a nation acting as a mature, responsible country, calling its children home.

    The possibility of being part of a consultation process that involves the life and future of our nation, the well being of millions of our people in a respectful environment, devoid of recriminations for what some did or did not do, was unique, typically Cuba, in the spirit of our forefathers.

    The results derived from each of the meetings described above and others, are far less than what we hoped and expected, yet, there is no doubt, the enormous leap forward that these gatherings have meant for our people on both sides of the Florida straits.

    If we recall the first and second meetings took place during Cuba’s worst economical downwards spiral, in which distrust, skeptycysm and suspicion was in the air, since anyone of us coming out of the US, could be a supporter of the Torricelli bill and later the Helms-Burton Act, bent on destroying our country.

    Today, everyone is more mature, the internal conditions in the country are secure, the world political trend is of greater understanding and respect, less antagonism and most important, is the recognition, wherever we are, like it or not, Cuba was right from day one in the defense of its sovereignty and independence at whatever cost.

    To publicly admit we are on the wrong side of the equation, may not be palatable to many, except if we look a the Big Picture, our nation, our families, our dignity, our history and the lessons of our forefathers.

    With that spirit, if I am invited, I will participate in the upcoming meeting. If I am not, I may only hope those in attendance, refrain from putting any personal feelings, pain, suffering, injustices or more, above the sacred interest of the motherland. Cuba will always be more than the sum of all of us!

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