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.”

*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

    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

    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

    “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

    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.

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