Cubans Need to Demand a New Social Contract

Havana photo by Juan Suarez

By Rolf Niederstrasser*

HAVANA TIMES – Given the worst socio-political and economic crisis unfolding in Cuba in almost three decades, perennial questions are arising for the island’s political future. 

Inside and abroad, influencers and local leaders are acting as agents of change. Some embraced the call for US military intervention after the July 11th protest crackdown, a few even advocate US annexation, but all demand liberty from communism.

Their work has been critical in creating a new political awakening within the population by voicing issues happening on the island with colloquial language, along with analytical, and even parodical tones. This movement also coincides with the population’s growing disinterest in the communist party’s narrative, slogans, and symbols.

Increased internet consumption, even if it’s still expensive and slow, has contributed to the ability to access information from the outside. For the first time, many see a possible future with democracy and liberty in Cuba within reach.

In the last two years, this phenomenon has been vital in fostering alternative social and political thought within the population and a belief that peaceful protest can be an agent of change. When Cubans took to the streets demanding freedom and the end of the communist system on July 11th in many major cities around the country, it was a testament for many opposition leaders. 

More Stick, Less Carrot

These events have also been transformative for many Cubans, like myself, who previously supported the normalization of relations and more engagement with the government as a way to bring reforms to the island.

Before the July protests, the Cuban embargo was a crucial obstacle that needed to be tackled first so the normalization of relations could truly occur, as opposed to the scenario to pressure the Cuban government for concessions. This was rather an unlikely ordeal, because throughout the whole process, they denied making any adjustments, leaving more engaging reformers of the system in a weak position. 

For me, that became clear after opposition leaders were left outside the negotiation room by the Obama administration during the Cuban Thaw. After President Trump’s retraction from the normalization process, many young Cuban-American students, myself included, saw an opportunity when Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez spoke at Howard University in 2016, saying that, “Cuba opens while the United States closes.”

In many ways, it felt like the regime was ready to engage with their exile community, especially with students about grievances and new ideas about Cuba’s future. This became personified by the proposed amended constitution two years later where the exiled community’s opinions were supposedly going to be heard.

However, in late 2018, the Cuban National Assembly approved a retrograded version of the constitution when completing the final step for a referendum that instead of reforming the system, consolidated and even tried to intertwine the communist system and the Cuban nation into one. This shattered the belief for reformers that negotiations with the regime could bring change. Now, Cubans that speak about issues and reforms are being jailed. Such repression is codified into law. 

At this moment in history, Cubans have no other option than to demand a new social contract that is best suited for their present state and condition. If the Cuban government will not recognize the rights of a significant part of the citizenry by allowing peaceful protests to happen, a human right codified by the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, this contract must be rewritten.

In a Hobbesian way, the idea of government is to create it through the consent of the people and with the ultimate right to be rejected. I understand that negotiations with the Cuban government, a strategy I supported, did not work and that is why I believe that the upcoming peaceful protests of November 15th are very important and need to be supported. 

*Guest writer Rolf Niederstrasser is a German-Cuban political analyst

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

10 thoughts on “Cubans Need to Demand a New Social Contract

  • I got around to meditating where and when it was that I first heard the expression “social contract”. Then it came to mind, it was I think in 1966, used by Harold Wilson, a British Socialist Prime Minister. Harold was full of such stuff. another of his verbal inventions was “at this moment in time”, by which he meant now. So what exactly is a social contract – does anyone know of any such actual contract, signed by whom and when?

  • Mr MacD states that there are failing capitalist countries ‘in Nick’s opinion’.
    It’s not my opinion, it’s a plain and simple fact. There are capitalist countries at the top of the ladder which do very well. There are those at the bottom which have abject grinding poverty.
    Conversely there are countries with Communist Parties in power which also do well. eg China, Vietnam These are not capitalist countries in the classical sense, but have embraced a more capitalised economy. They have embraced incentivisation. Cuba would do well to take note of this. If the Cuban government fails to address this, they are quite likely doomed in the medium-long term.
    But being a Capitalist country is no guarantee of success. This is a factually correct statement.

  • In Nick’s opinion, there are many failing capitalist countries. If and when they do eventually fail, they will join those countries that have already failed, for instance, Cuba.

    Cuba has under the compulsion of the Stalinist version of communism so beloved by the Castros, demonstrated repression, denial of human rights as defined by the UN and spun into the vortex of incompetence and economic ignorance. Such is failure!

  • Brad always makes the same accusation. But never answers the question as to why there are so many failing capitalist countries.
    Although he has finally admitted that he is a fan of disturbingly right wing governments such as those in Poland and Hungary.

  • There are almost no countries with command economies anymore.
    Cuba and North Korea are among the very few.

    Nick seems oblivious that the planet has market economies.
    And we vote in elections unlike guess who Cuba and North Korea who have no opposition parties.

    But then Nick doesn’t want Cubans voting for an opposition.
    That would be the end for his communists.

  • Anti Imperialist suggests leaving Miami and trump (or whoever the incumbent on Pennsylvania Ave is) out of the picture. When someone’s aim is to quite deliberately try to make life increasingly worse for the people on the island of Cuba, how can they be left out of the picture?
    They are the picture. Or at least they are a major part of it. They do not have the solution because they are a major part of the problem.
    The Cuban Government bang one drum.
    Their opponents, supported by the usual suspects who post their comments here, bang the opposing drum. This has been going on for decades. Two opposing orthodoxies. Each side wishes for some kind of ultimate victory.
    I would question this as a way to continue, regardless of the opinions of those who comment here in favour of their chosen orthodoxy.

  • Nick has an idee fixe about past President Donald J. Trump. We all know that Trump has an unfortunate complexion, small hands and is driven by a paranoid narcissistic mind. That is a given!

    But Nick also refers to “Certain elements” complaining about “how bad it is in Cuba” and “complaining about what they see as a paucity of democracy there.”

    So, are they wrong?

    Is it accurate to refer to a total dearth of democracy as merely a “paucity”. I agree with Nick’s inference that they are wrong, for there is no democracy in Cuba, there is no freedom of speech or of the media.

    Nick is correct in saying that the “situation in Cuba is bad”. Where one can differ however is in assessing where the main responsibility for the bad situation lies? Nick implies that it is with the US and in particular with his fruity faced idee fixe. That is deliberately excusing the three successive communist presidents – a misnomer for dictators – and their Junta, for their actual responsibility, for that is the reality!

  • Nick, you end by saying: “I’m all for a better social contract in Cuba”. Let’s leave Trump and Miami out of the picture for a moment and could you tell us why you think Cuba needs a better social contract. Likewise, what are some of the changes you would include in that. Looking forward to your ideas.

  • The situation in Cuba is bad.
    Mr Orange Face trumpy boy put together a package of policies with the specific objective of making the situation in Cuba even worse (in a successful bid for FLA electoral college votes which ultimately failed to secure victory in the USA’s rickety old ‘democracy’ system).
    Certain elements on the other side of the Florida Straits complain about how bad it is in Cuba and complain about what they see as a paucity of democracy there.
    Then these very same hypocritical individuals vote in their sad droves for a man with an orange face who deliberately tries to turn a bad situation for Cuban people into an even worse situation. And they vote for this orange faced man who, rather than ‘bringing democracy to Cuba’, tries to put an end to democracy in the USA.
    This is a sick irony. A sick and twisted irony beyond any rational excuse. Even the pro capitalist commentators who vent their frustrations here cannot, if they are being honest with themselves, deny the sick and twisted nature of this irony. Although some of them may try.
    A better ‘social contract’ in Cuba is a good thing to aim for. Most definitely.
    But you really wanna cave in to the likes of Mr orange faced trumpy boy?
    He’ll be consigned to the darkest and most hidden pages of U.S. history within a few years.
    I feel sure that they will do their very best to write this sad little orange faced climate change denier out of the official story of the nation in decades to come.
    But for the time being this bunch in Miami wish to pin their hopes on him. It’s just such a sad shame. The desperation and sheer hypocrisy is such a sorry sight to behold.
    I’m all for a better social contract in Cuba, but hey, have some self respect.
    Don’t get on the wrong side of history yet again.

  • The only intervention that will happen is that of Cubans themselves bringing down the regime. No one will shed blood for our Cuba if we Cubans do not do that first. Enough talking. Enough cowardice since 1961.

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