Cuba: A Worthwhile Debate

Fernando Ravsberg*

People in Cuba are passionate about politics and baseball, although they are two topics where a lack of a debate culture is quite evident. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — I’ve decided to follow the recommendations that I’ve received from a number of readers in the course of time. After gathering their different viewpoints, I drew up a list of people who will no longer be allowed to publish their opinions on this forum.

All Cubans living on the island who have favorable opinions about the revolution, because, surely, these are “State security agents tasked with navigating the Internet to post opinions that support any government action.”

Those who live in Cuba and write things against the government are also to be excluded for, as some insist, they do so from the cybercafé of the US Interests Section, copying and pasting defamatory articles in order to produce negative opinions about the country.”

Those Cubans who live abroad and defend socialism are disqualified from the start because – I am told by some – they are “a bunch of impostors who take refuge in capitalism, in search of the material abundance they couldn’t have in their own country.”

We will stop publishing comments by Cubans who live abroad and attack the government because “they didn’t stick around to fight the government and now, from afar, they tell their fellow Cubans to do what they didn’t have the courage to do.”

We will censor citizens from other countries who attack the revolution, for they “ought to worry about Afghanistan, where thousands of people are regularly murdered. Cuba should be the concern of Cubans alone. We don’t need anyone to help us solve our problems.”

As of this post on, we could begin to rebut people’s ideas about Cuba with arguments and without discrediting the person expressing these, as when we are discussing something face to face. Photo: Raquel Perez

To be fair, we will also eliminate comments by foreigners who defend Cuba’s tropical socialism, because “they don’t know what they’re talking about and have no idea about the real suffering of Cubans. What’s more, if they like it so much, why don’t they move to Cuba and live on a ration booklet?”

Fernando Ravsberg, who “takes care not to offend the government to live the good life in Cuba with the Sterling pounds he gets from London”, a money that some believe “make him look for defects in the revolution”, should also stop writing.

Changing Our View of Cuba

The problem is that, after listing all of those who ought to be disqualified, I find that the blog could disappear and, with it, a place where one can exchange different viewpoints about Cuban reality. So, I drew up the list again in order to include:

The Cubans who live in Cuba and express support for the revolution. These are people who, in spite of the difficulties they face on a daily basis, believe the system has more positive than negative aspects and all of us should be interested in knowing what these are.

Those Cuban citizens who write things against the government should also be included, because they are willing to express their opinions even when they are not to the liking of authorities. In addition, they provide a counterweight to the opinions of the previous group.

We will of course allow émigrés who live in other nations and, despite this, continue to defend socialisms to participate. They may have left, but they acknowledge the achievements of Cuban society and are in a position to compare it to the reality of other countries.

As for Cubans who criticize the system from abroad, they are people who, having reached their dream of living in a different society, do not forget the country of their birth and insist on demanding the changes that they believe would make Cuba a better country.

We will also make room for foreigners who attack the revolution because, when all is said and done, they have every right to be more interested in Cuba than in Iraq or Afghanistan. Cyberspace is for everyone and, according to Jose Marti, humanity is our only true homeland.

The problem is that, if we agree to censor the different opinions out there, we would have to stop talking about Cuba altogether. Photo: Raquel Perez

We must of course lend an ear to the citizens of other countries who defend Cuban socialism: they have the right to express their opinions without having to hop on a plane with their parents, siblings, spouses, children and friends to come live in Cuba.

Finally, I will also defend my right to continue writing these posts because, having the option of leading a comfortable life and staying out of trouble, I have become a kind of boxer who negotiates the blows from the blue corner one day and those from the red corner another.

The two lists are identical; the only difference is our perception of those who participate in this small, weekly debate. Thus, we could perhaps start rebutting people’s ideas with arguments and without discrediting the person who expresses them.

We could use this post to converse about how we should converse and to stop accusing one another of being “pro-Batista” or “minions of Fidel Castro.” Let us begin to express our viewpoints about how we should debate without offending or excluding those who think differently.

In theory, we all agree about the importance of freedom of expression. Some insist socialism guarantees the people’s participation and others claim that Western democracy is the only system that affords people this freedom. Well, let us begin to practice what we preach.
(*) An HT translation of the original published in Spanish by BBC Mundo.



5 thoughts on “Cuba: A Worthwhile Debate

  • Dear Fernando, finaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllyyyyy! some common sense and buena onda! I believe this post of yours is the most important ever published in Havana Times, because it is not about a specific fragment of Cuban reality (or not only) but it addresses the more urgent, universal, underlying problem of being a rational and respectful interlocutor. And when I say respectful, I mean one that truly embraces diversity of opinion and does not jump to scratch his ideological opponent but willingly engages in CONVERSATION, argumentation. Plus, your lists, both the black one and the nice one, were a most funny, clever and ingenious way of phrasing this matter. Thanks!

  • Socialism is based on a bottom-up worker rule .
    It is democratic from the get-go
    What Cuba has is not socialism but rather a top-down (totalitarian ) system in which the state controls the economy but which also which distributes the goods and services ( wealth) of the nation in a fairly equitable manner.
    It is a relatively benign dictatorship considering Cuba’s inordinately high standing on the U.N.’s Human Development Index .
    The so-called Western democracies are de facto oligarchies under which the wealthy control the elected representatives for the benefit of those wealthy few.
    It is an unelected dictatorship of money which vetoes any change toward a democratic government for obvious reasons.
    Multi-party electoral systems in a oligarchy are a farce since the wealthy control /own/ bribe the candidates of both parties and present only candidates acceptable to them to both the Republicans and Democrats . These candidates are rubber stamped by the two parties and lucky us get to vote for the very wealthy’s choice of candidates .
    I think open debate is essential but debate between people who can’t accurately define what democracy is and isn’t in both the economic and political spheres is a waste of time.
    Most Americans support both their government which is a de facto dictatorship of money and capitalism which is and always was a dictatorship: your boss can fire you whenever he likes .
    Most Americans also believe that both institutions are democratic .
    How can you have an intelligent debate given that sad fact ?

  • Fernando Ravsberg you are brave and your effort to encourage rational and honestly motivated debate is much needed, not only on Havana Times. Many other comments sections, especially on mainstream U.S. publications are just venom filled shouting matches of make believe reality. Hopefully, carefully thought out and presented exchanges will get past that very human failing, Truth like “beauty is in the eye [mind] of the beholder.”

  • Until I read the second half your article, I was worried that many folks in the States would take your prohibitions literally. What was it the Gore Vidal once said? “America, the Home of the Brave…and the Land of the Literal!”
    Truth be told, whether Cuba or the U.S.A.–or anywhere else for that matter–we are all equadistant from “The New Jerusalem.” Still, as Socrates said towards the end of REPUBLIC, “Even if such a(n) equitable system shall never exist, still, we should continue to try to establish such a state.” (I paraphrase).
    I agree with you, Fernando, we should continue to make this a dialogue, where all voices are heard, all contributions valued.

  • Despite the occasional commenter to HT who fails to appreciate the reality that opinions differ, HT remains one of the best sties on the internet which presents the Cuban reality from all points of view…even Elio Delgado Legon!

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