HAVANA TIMES — President Raul Castro’s and Barack Obama’s simultaneous announcements about the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States and the return of the three Cuban agents imprisoned in the US unleashed a wave of optimism among the Cuban people.
Nearly all Cubans I have spoken with feel hopeful and believe this development will lead to a definitive change in the complicated relationship between the two countries, clearing the way to a new era of cooperation and understanding. They also hope that this will soon be reflected in Cuba’s internal situation.
Even the traditional government supporters, concerned about the United States’ ulterior motives, are mostly glad about the easing of tensions that this entails at many levels for Cuban society in general. Some are still skeptical.
Obama’s speech makes it very clear that the United States is trying to have an impact on Cuba’s situation, now from a posture of rapprochement. But we should not turn down the United States’ offers in a reflex reaction of opposition to anything that comes from “imperialism”. We should, rather, find a new way of co-existing with the powerful neighbor, to which we are bound in many ways, in which respect towards national and popular sovereignty and international law also allow for economic, political, and cultural relations that are beneficial to the future of both nations.
We will not arrive at a post-capitalist society, which some of us refer to as democratic socialism, through coercion. We will arrive at it by creating and developing the bases for that system within our society today. In this process, the United States has a lot to offer Cuba, and vice-versa.
It is also clear that the government elites in both counties are trying to profit from this rapprochement. This doesn’t mean, however, that the people and workers cannot profit also. This new climate of eased tensions between governments is indispensable to the economic, political and social development of the Cuban people.
The fear of this new relationship is one of the hidden faces of the old, Stalinist mindset.
A process of democratization in Cuba, as I have explained in other posts, is in keeping with the interests of the government, the opposition and the broad democratic Left. This development, assumed by all in a constructive fashion, should be the beginning of this much-needed process.
The joy over the re-establishment of diplomatic relations has been such that doing anything to revert the process of understanding began by the two presidents could prompt an upheaval, owing to the high hopes the Cuban people have placed on this. In fact, the minority that has expressed its opposition to this development is becoming more and more isolated.
Because of this, we will have to work to skirt the dangers we could run into down the road, stemming from the backward-minded and conservative sectors on both sides.
Certain figures in Cuba’s émigré community have expressed their discontent and declared that they will do everything in their power to hinder President Obama’s policies. Some members of Cuba’s internal opposition have also made their disagreement known. They don’t realize they are swimming against the current and that they are lagging behind the interests of the majority in Cuba.
To be in favor of democracy is to be in favor of pluralism, diversity, respect towards differences, peace, reconciliation, open exchange and harmony. Those who oppose heading down this road and undertaking a complex but necessary process aren’t showing very democratic or peaceful inclinations and run the risk of isolating themselves from the flow of history.
In Cuba, we must pay particularly close attention to actions that groups opposed to this turn of events may undertake in order to hamper the process, both within the traditional opposition and the government-Party-State, groups that could play into each other’s hands.
The conflict between Cuba and the United States has been a business from which many in the opposition and a large number of bureaucrats have profited.
US funds destined to groups and currents opposed to the new course may disappear, while the Cuban government works to readjust its military and security schemes to address the new reality (something which would bolster the health of State finances and budgets).
No few people will feel nostalgia for the old days and continue to want to profit from the juicy business of confrontation.
The Cuban government must not only demonstrate it is willing to co-exist peacefully; it must also take clear and vigorous measures against officials that create conflicts that could compromise the future, just as the US government will have to keep extremist groups seeking to sabotage this process in check.
Both governments will have to be patient and process the discontent of some citizens and their opponents, in order not to confuse the actions and declarations of some officials and lobbies as the official stance of their counterpart.
Other measures will be needed to gradually regain the trust people have lost after so many years of multilateral confrontation.
We cannot forget that, while the Clinton administration was attempting a rapprochement with Cuba, planes piloted by the group Brothers to the Rescue continued to carry out actions the Cuban government considered provocative, and that these planes were ultimately downed and all constructive efforts by the administration were razed to the ground.
We must be on the alert to avoid similar situations from repeating themselves and frustrating or ruining the joy of the Cuban people.
This opportunity for peace and understanding should not be missed by any Cuban interested in the prosperity and wellbeing of our people.