Cuba’s Call to Meet with Some Emigrants in USA

Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*

The Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 27 — This past Wednesday night I received an email that had been sent out to numbers of people from a diligent Cuban-American cultural entrepreneur. It was a call from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington for the holding of a meeting with Cuban emigrants in the United States.

The document suffered from that aseptic style that afflicts diplomatic communications, particularly those of Cubans in when it comes to the issue of migration. Its narcissistic style that enjoys its own aim for accuracy, so as to leave no room for interpretation, at least among trained readers.

The message wasn’t addressed to all migrants, only to those who “are linked to their country in a respectful manner and are conscious of the urgency of defending its sovereignty and national identity.”

The meeting’s agenda vaguely referred to “the normalization of relations between the nation and its emigrants, the effects of the US posture of hostility, as well as the blockade against Cuba and its manipulation in relation to the issue of immigration, and the situation of the “five anti-terrorist fighters unjustly imprisoned in the United States.”

To dispel any doubt about who was being selected to attend, the message noted that the Interests Office itself would choose them and send out the invitations.

Of course, this document might raise many questions for any uninformed reader, particularly if one respects the universal norms that govern global migration processes and the responsibilities that issuing countries must abide by in relation to their citizens living outside their jurisdictions.

These standards, incidentally, are the result of advances in the notion of citizenship, the rights of these nationals and the relationship between the state and the citizen. However these are standards which the Cuban government doesn’t abide by.

The conference has been called in this way, repeating the same authoritarian, exclusivist, discriminatory and anti-national pattern as its predecessors, particularly the four that have taken place since 1994.

No room for doubt

Nothing seems to have changed.

Havana balcony. Photo: Caridad

Even the title of the announcement is contradictory. They talk of “the Nation and Emigration,” as if both were to participate.

The reality, though, is that it’s difficult to recognize the Cuban government as 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.

This is not a case of the nation and its emigrants meeting, but of a government of dubious legitimacy that fails to submit itself to electoral scrutiny and only one part of an acquiescent fragment of its emigrants whose sociological and ideological composition differ materially from that of the overall emigrant population.

Therefore, we should point out that Cuba is not only a high volume source of emigrants at the global level, but that its immigration policies make it an source of politicized emigrants par excellence due to its own politics of banishment, economic extortion and limitations of all types that the government imposes on its emigrants.

Moreover, the title of the conference establishes a terrible dichotomy between the “Nation and Emigration.” They are two different things in dialogue, and only one of them is the nation.

So even though Cuban emigrants finance a good part of household consumption in Cuba, are asked to invest, are producers of what we call Cuban culture, etc., they are seen as an external appendage to the body of the nation.

The issue remains exactly as was defined by ousted Foreign Minister Perez Roque, who in 2008 spoke in terms of “neither schemes nor Manichaeism” and said “To emigrate is a right, to establish ones residence abroad is a decision for each individual,” which contrasts with another evidently superior statement: “To experience hardships and dangers, but also the satisfaction of defending the homeland here…is an entirely voluntary act, a personal decision.”

True interests cloaked

In reality, what the Cuban government is doing is the same thing that, according to Julio Cesar Guanche, what a Havana rapper does: regurgitate the secular ideological content of the revolution in retreat while throwing a cover loaded with patriotic emotions over the concrete and thorny problems of the nation.

Havana balcony. Photo: Caridad

Obviously, though, Guanche’s rapper has to do this with more grace and rhythm than the grotesque former foreign minister, who after so conscientiously interpreting the wishes of Fidel Castro ended up “intoxicated by the honey of power.”

If Cuban officials are now returning to the issue of immigration, it’s because they desperately need the money and the participation of emigrants in the capitalist restructuring of Cuban society and for the post-revolutionary bourgeois elite.

Because of this, where we want to see one part of the nation, the Cuban government sees emigration different from that. Where we want to see citizens with rights — even the meager rights that ordinary Cubans possess — the government sees remittances, tourists and investors.

Where we want to see a bridge for understanding, the Cuban government would rather see the formation of a political lobby to achieve access to the American market.

All of this poses a serious political challenge, and also moral one, to those who decide to participate in this meeting with a pre-set agenda.

The Cuban government is going to expand participation to people other than the members of those associations adopted by Cuban embassies. It needs to. But these will be momentary acts of cooptation that do not imply qualitative change, only a utilitarian extension of the fingerboard.

Those who agree to participate, from my point of view, are not crossing an ethical Rubicon, nor are they turning into un-presentable politicians. But if one attends, they should know that they will be legitimizing a process that won’t lead to normalization but to the perpetuation of separation, ostracism and exploitation of emigrants by a parasitic and authoritarian state.

They should know, no matter what their present intentions, that they are legitimizing discrimination.

If the Cuban government really wants to do something different it should give up control over the composition of this meeting, open up the agenda for discussion and finally promise some type of mechanism that links the meeting’s agreements and state’s policies to be adopted.

We must demand this through all through the means we have.

I repeat what I said before: Either we direct our actions and demands above the scaffolding, or we will end up — despite our intentions — propping it up.

(*) Originally published in Spanish by  

4 thoughts on “Cuba’s Call to Meet with Some Emigrants in USA

  • That the Cubans who left Cuba for the United States are largely counter revolutionary is quite evident.
    That the U.S aggression against the people of Cuba for choosing an economic form that defies the wishes of the elite ruling class in the United States is not going away any time soon is also quite evident.

    At the same time the older more counter-revoltionary emigres in the U.S. are dying off and the overall counter-revolutionary attitude is moderating as the younger U.S- born second generation U.S./Cubans come into adulthood and acquire a political voice.

    It makes no sense to invite Ros-Lehtinen and her ilk to the meeting as intransigent as they are.
    Far better to link up with people who are not likely to not see things in the crazed manner of the old hard-liners like R-L .

    As Dawn said , you have to start somewhere and any outreach where common ground can be established will be good for Cuba.

  • The Cuban government expropriates the rights of migrants, takes their money via extremely expensive consular services, only invites some of them to a meeting and finally Dawn wants Dilla to laugh at the joke. What is he?: cynical or stupid.

  • Sour Grapes anyone?

    Wow, way to turn a positive into a negative. The Cuban government attempts to reach out to the emigre population and this guy turns it into an evil plot. Get a grip, dude. The Interest Section has the right to invite whoever they want to the table….it’s their party….why invite people who they will not find common ground with, not make any progress with? Poco a poco… start with what works…where dialogue can be fruitful…it’s going to take time to build trust and open hearts on both sides…or I should say all sides… The Cuban government should be congratulated for taking the initiative. As far as the Interest Section not representing Cuba…well, that’s fantasy. Whether you like it or not, they are the Cuban government representatives in the US. Hey, I didn’t like the fact that Otto Reich represented the US in Venezuela either…but the facts are the facts… deal with reality or remain irrelevant…and uninvited.

  • “a diligent Cuban-American cultural entrepreneur”? Is Havana Times now officially promoting the “virtues” of U.S. Capitalism?

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