Letter to Obama on His Upcoming Visit to Cuba

by Osmel Ramirez Alvarez  (photos: Carlos Vilá)

HAVANA TIMES — Esteemed Barack Obama: This letter was written by a run-of-the-mill Cuban, one who is neither a dissident nor has any ties to government politics. What I’ve written comes from the heart and knows none of the hypocritical opportunism that characterizes politics many a time. It is made of pure sincerity.

Your imminent visit to our country this coming March has been announced. This is, without a doubt, a historical event we must celebrate. Our countries are far too close to be enemies, and I am not referring to geography only.

Cubans of goodwill, regardless of their political affiliations, are overjoyed at the courageous step you took on opening up an opportunity for exchange and the reestablishment of relations between our countries. Our people suffer greatly the daily ups and downs of the system and the blockade is an additional burden on us.

We are not unaware of the impact that the interests of your government and its wealthiest citizens have had. The United States is an economic and military power and, beyond the democratic and humanist values it defends, those interests have a major say. The situation must be grasped this way, without kicking up any pointless fusses, and these interests must be borne in mind when negotiating, without undermining essential principles.

Soon, you will set foot in Havana and Raul Castro will welcome you with the cordiality that characterizes Cuban diplomacy. You will visit numerous places as part of a tight agenda and will be dazzled, like other visitors before you, by the marvelous things showcased for you.

The Latin American School of Medicine, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the restored areas of the old town (thanks to Eusebio Leal’s stellar company), the Mariel Special Development Zone and the occasional elementary school crammed with happy, smiling children.

If you let your guard down, you may leave Cuba wishing to implement, in your country, a system as marvelous as ours. I kid, of course, but it is anything but outrageous to write this, as more than one audacious politician has been so dazzled. The official reception at the Revolution Palace will be majestic, with ornamental plants and polychromatic marble.

Behind the walls of this beautiful palace and the immense display case designed for visitors, this people suffer and demand a better future.

You, in your good faith, can apply pressure within your country to have Congress dismantle the blockade, and this would be of great help. But the most powerful blockade our people endure is here and those who can dismantle it are your future hosts.

I am referring to the excessively planned, state centralized, bureaucratic and dysfunctional system we have. I write only of its economic aspects, and its political dimension is perhaps worse: completely anti-democratic, with indirect elections that do not reflect the people’s will, a system that does not accept plurality and criminalizes the desire to steer the country in a non-official direction.

When Raul tells you “we have the right to choose the social model we want,” he is referring to them, the government, not the people. Similarly, when they talk to you of “our particular way of understanding human rights and democracy,” this is merely euphemistic. In truth, what they mean to say is that they tolerate no criticism of the model that will allow them to govern for as long as they want to and in the manner they want to.

They will accept discussing all of these thorny issues, but they will do so out of cordiality or in the manner of someone who fulfills an unavoidable and tedious itinerary. They have no real interest in improving our system or hearing, in a sincere spirit of self-criticism and self-improvement, the positive experiences offered by a different model. They aren’t interested in true democracy, only a caricature of democracy.

They want the wellbeing of Cubans, but only as the miraculous result of its failed project. They want relations and trade between the two countries, but not as an individual and collective process, only through their institutions and State companies. From this friendly initiative, they seek only a small gulp of air that will allow them to reach their twilight years with slightly less disastrous results.

Don’t let these lines suggest to you that I hate the revolution or its leaders. Never! I would never harbor such hatred, not even had I been victimized by their extreme policies. Hatred does not neutralize hatred, nor does violence destroy violence.

The revolution has done good things and has given our country valuable strengths, placing us at an advantage in terms of reaching the development we aspire to as a nation. Only the entrenchment of a political class that grew accustomed to absolute power and tries to legitimate it with an ideology that is as romantic as it is unviable stands in our way, more so than the blockade!

On behalf of our people, who suffer and lack a voice, I ask that you foster official relations, undermine the blockade and facilitate the building of bridges, and that you do not forget to ask, in exchange, the only just thing one can demand: a referendum.

It isn’t right for the United States to impose conditions on Cuba in exchange for lifting a blockade that’s by nature unjust. But, if the Cuban government claims to speak on behalf of everyone and regards its political model as the holy grail of democracy, then, as a minimum, they must at least hold a plebiscite and have the people confirm their claims.

If the bill presented to Congress to lift the blockade demands a regime change in Cuba in exchange, it would be opprobrious and criticized by the entire world. If, instead, it demanded a nationwide referendum where the Cuban people (including émigrés) is consulted regarding the continuation of the current regime or a change towards democracy, then it would be beneficial to all.

What’s more, it would unmask the real intentions of Cuban leaders in the event they did not accept this. It’s time to help our people take the reins of its sovereignty and impel change in Cuba without resentment, vendettas or unbridled passions that cause evils.

The revolution prepared us for prosperity, but it has long been the main obstacle on our way to it.

Help our people reach such prosperity, not only lifting the US blockade but also making it conditional on the lifting of the internal blockade, which stifles us even more violently.

Neither the United States nor Cubans ought to turn our backs on the Cuban government. This would be foolish. They are the ones in charge, the entire world recognizes them and this is a fact.

We only demand that we be consulted before they speak on our behalf.

Friendly greetings from a Cuban concerned for his homeland, who dares express his opinions to try and find a cure for these painful things.

I look forward to your visit.


37 thoughts on “Letter to Obama on His Upcoming Visit to Cuba

  • March 7, 2016 at 10:13 pm
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    well said mark–capitalism will try to kill off the Cuban spirit.

    Introducing “American style’ Democracy to Cuba will end up –at best–
    like it ended up in the the Soviet Union. The Russian people fell for the ‘Coca Cola’ democracy offered.

    The people who previously owned their ( slightly imperfect/not so efficient) state industry, had very affordable or free housing, healthcare, education, energy and ample food stuffs—but how is the situation in Russia today?
    The peoples ( state ) assets have been ‘mis aprobiated’ and are owned now by either the Russian Mafia or multi billionaire ‘oligarchs’ residing outside Russia.
    I know how/why that could happen–I WAS IN MOSCOW during that time of change.
    Do not trust in US style democracy–remember pre revolutionary days–
    when the US imperialistic policies ” liberated’ Cuba only to turn it into a US playground for gambling,exploitation & sex tourism.
    I PRAY TO OUR LORD THAT THE CUBAN PEOPLE WILL NOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN–
    Please please find/establish your own unique Cuban solution–
    In my view the Cuban answer lies in a close relationship with our Lord and the acceptance of Christian values in the form of the 10 commandments .
    God bless you all
    Christian-Frederick Mattner.
    Prof. Dr.hc economics

  • February 26, 2016 at 10:51 pm
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    Your comment is irrelevant to the discussion. Try again.

  • February 25, 2016 at 7:31 am
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    Do you have even a single fact to support your Castro bootlickers comments?

  • February 25, 2016 at 7:28 am
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    I don’t believe you. Prove it.

  • February 25, 2016 at 7:27 am
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    #1 You are conflating Democracy and Capitalism. They are two different things. Monarchies can have capitalistic economies. Likewise, a democratically-elected government can choose to be communist. #2 Cubans do NOT choose their candidates until AFTER they are vetted by the Communist Party in Cuba. #3 Healthcare is not FREE in Cuba. People are taxed at more than 95%. #4 There are homeless people living on Cuban streets searching the garbage bins for survival. In fact, there are people who live in houses doing the same thing. #5 Cuba has a relatively large prison population. #6 You will miss the water before the well runs dry if you are smart. Your comments are not smart.

  • February 25, 2016 at 6:26 am
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    A simple ‘yes or no to the present system’ referendum would settle nothing, unless people have a clear idea what ‘no’ would mean.

    Suppose there were such a referendum, a majority voted ‘no’, and Raul or whoever is the leader does a Gorbachev and says, ‘Okay, we quit!’

    What should happen then?

    This uncertainty would propel many people into the ‘yes’ camp, just out of fear of the unknown.

    This is why there needs to first be a wide, democratic discussion about alternatives for Cuba that allow democratic freedoms, but do not allow the horrible social deformations that we see accompanying so many countries that have these freedoms.

  • February 25, 2016 at 12:47 am
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    OK, so move to Cuba.

  • February 24, 2016 at 10:42 pm
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    The family version is reliable. At least as reliable as the government version.

  • February 24, 2016 at 10:40 pm
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    Nice. When you can’t defend the Castros with facts, you resort to name-calling.

  • February 24, 2016 at 10:35 pm
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    I won’t retry the case here but there are too many inconsistencies in the Castro version of the accident. I support the family’s version that alleges that Paya was murdered.

  • February 24, 2016 at 10:34 pm
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    Haha. Says the guy who’s read, what was it, 1000 science fiction books by you count? I think that’s where you lost touch with reality.

    Fortunately you and those of your ilk on this site are powerless to effect any of your crazy schemes. So back to the basement with you.

  • February 24, 2016 at 10:33 pm
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    I support the family’s claim that he was murdered.

  • February 24, 2016 at 9:21 pm
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    Poor Moses Patterson with the same old worn out phrases and propaganda. What is democracy? Is it the American type of capitalism? There is voting in Cuba. The ballot boxes are guarded by school children, The people choose their candidates and those candidates can be changed if they do not report to their electorate regularly. This is real and true democracy. What exists today in Cuba is PEOPLE’S POWER.Not the corporate’ power which exists in America. Those of us who are intelligent and can think for ourselves are fully aware that, in America, the PRESIDENT IS ONLY A FRONT MAN, and it is not him who runs the affairs of America. The electorate in America are not consulted about anything, not even when the country is going to war and their sons and daughters will be sent to be slaughtered in defending the decisions made by a few people. The electorate only sees those they have elected in the next four years when they seek re-election. The people of Cuba have a good thing going for the country and the people. You are a Sovereign Nation and the UN Charter gives you the right to choose your own particular pathway for your development. Under Capitalism and Batista, your people were made to be second class citizens, devoid of education, held prisoners in the dark cells of ignorance, unable to access free medical attention which is denied the average American; you do not have homeless people living on your streets searching the garbage bins for survival. You do not have gun killings on your streets every day. Your prison population is extremely small. So, what is the reason to change what you have? My departed Grand Mother used to say, “You will never miss the water until the well runs dry!!”.

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:57 pm
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    Very well said, Mark.

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:43 pm
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    A multi-party system such as in the United States is eminently and inevitably corruptible as you should be able to see quite plainly.
    The multi-party USA has become the single Capitalist Party with a left and right wing.
    It is not even a quasi -democracy . It is an out and out oligarchy
    Direct democracy is the only incorruptible system but the corrupting influence of the corporate world and concentrated great wealth have made any form of democracy impossible.
    We have an unelected dictatorship of money..

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:37 pm
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    Perhaps YOU have a reliable source that proves that Paya was murdered .?
    You counter-revolutionaries seem to be short on reliable news sources or at least ones that you can reveal without embarrassment .

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:35 pm
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    What they say about smoke ?
    That you should buy better stuff.
    Your rhetoric and propaganda indicate some debilitating drug use..

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:32 pm
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    Okay SFB,
    Provide the proof that Paya was killed.
    I believe the accident was witnessed by people who lived in the area who testified to the effects that the car was driving too fast for the condition of the road it was on.
    In any case, .your charge is bullshit until you present a reliable source that proves otherwise.
    This should be good.

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:29 pm
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    And a bravo to you companero.

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:25 pm
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    “Castro’s biggest failure was his failure to generate wealth……”
    You my be interested to learn that back around 1960, the government of the United States instituted an economic embargo intended to impoverish the entire population of Cuba to the point they would overthrow their revolution and reinstate free enterprise capitalism.
    The embargo succeeded in its first goal of impoverishing the entire population but has failed in having the Cuban people believe, as many like you do, that it is THEIR government which is to blame for that poverty.
    The fact that foreign policy experts in the U.S. government have maintained the embargo
    despite the popular demand in the US electorate for its end indicates the effectiveness of the embargo.
    The oligarchy is scared shitless that Cuba, allowed to develop with normal relations, would make free enterprise capitalism look like the poorer alternative.
    It is instructive to note that the Soviet Union (which was a state capitalist economy like Cuba) came from the deaths of 50 million of its citizens and near total destruction of its economic infrastructure during WWII to being the #2 economy in the world by 1970 ; just 25 years later.
    So state capitalism can achieve great economic development .
    It has been U.S. foreign policy under every president to crush all attempts at alternative economic forms to free enterprise and Cuba is the only small country to have survived that 100 year history. ;
    .

  • February 24, 2016 at 7:26 pm
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    Interesting that you mentioned Scalia. Always thought of him as a nasty guy. A difficult time with that statement within our family but disliked him. I’m assuming you’re a big fan.

  • February 24, 2016 at 6:19 pm
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    You are unable to refute his comments with the hard-core facts, so apparently, you are the troll.

  • February 24, 2016 at 5:23 pm
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    People who pose a threat to the regime do seem to suffer an awful lot of fatal traffic accidents. Like Major General Pedro Mediondo, chief of Cuban Air Defense, in charge of the illicit weapons transfer to North Korea. You know what the say about smoke…..

  • February 24, 2016 at 4:19 pm
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    Paya murdered ? Moses’ burden of proof standard when it comes to the Cuban government is “guilty until proven innocent”, Didn’t Paya’s chauffeur lose his driver’s license multiple times in Spain for reckless driving ?

  • February 24, 2016 at 1:01 pm
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    The troll speaks again. Same old tired stuff.

  • February 24, 2016 at 1:01 pm
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    I’m sure you think Antonin Scalia was brilliant too.

  • February 24, 2016 at 1:00 pm
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    I have heard that rumor about the Varela Project too. (Total BS) Since when are CIA dirty tricks the baseline for good government? No thanks regarding the stick. Not a mature closing argument.

  • February 24, 2016 at 12:54 pm
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    I agree. Sort of. The Castros healthcare and education systems are hardly free. Cubans are taxed at an estimated 95%, but I take your point. I also agree that what we have in the US would work even less in Cuba. The problem is that we will likely never know what is really best for Cuba as long as the Brothers from Biran are in control.

  • February 24, 2016 at 9:07 am
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    What does reach a dazzling standard in Cuba is the social support for all its citizens, no matter how poor. A universal healthcare system which extends its care across the planet, for free. An education system which creates more literate children than the USA.
    Cuba needs free trade and investment, but not at any cost. And you’re right, it needs a multi-party system, but not the corporation-controlled quasi democracy of the the capitalist system.

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:59 am
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    I think everyone who has ever been to Cuba and walked the streets of Havana and Vedado will want the same for Cuba – but you must not confuse the Western World’s electoral system for democracy. Capitalism runs our democracy. We are controlled entirely by big business. It is wrecking our lives, our health systems and the planet.
    Cuba should seek nothing more than an opportunity for free trade with no pre-conditions. With wealth will come your freedom – Castro’s biggest failure was his failure to generate wealth for Cuba. Wealth which can be shared. And the political system is a result – a way of stifling dissent in a country whose citizens deserve more. But you have universal healthcare, good education and the spirit of Cuba. Never concede those things to capitalism.

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:53 am
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    Varela Project was connected with the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). The CANF was created by Reagan in the 1980’s to be a “Psuedo Voice” of the Cuban people, while secretly channeling U.S. Cold War Propaganda against Cuba. So he dies and it’s staged as an accident??? How many people did the CIA kill and made it look like an accident?? How many Movements in America were thwarted by the FBI/CIA because it would threaten to “Change” America, but this government ACTIVELY seeks to promote Change in other countries???? Here’s a stick…..I……for your rectum!!

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:47 am
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    Bravo!!!

  • February 24, 2016 at 8:46 am
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    This letter is very articulate, but in the end it is slanted for the benefit of the American reader. There are those who are qualified to discuss socio-economic conditions in Cuba, as well as here in the United States. Those people would be educated scholars who maintain an open and objective view on the dynamics they analyze and not those who are prejudiced in their view as they comment. Such as a Christian discussing Islam, Buddism or anything not Christianity. A Republican discussing Socialism or Communism, (or vis-a-versa). It is easy to locate a person who can articulate their thoughts well, but still have a political or ideological slant that will eventually permeate its way into the writing for that “Ah Ha” moment. Cuba has long requested that the United States (And its people) enter into an open and respectful dialogue so that both countries can learn from each other and respect their differences. The United States has routinely declined this invitation and actively sought to censor such overtures from the Cuban Government. Lets be clear. Obama’s mission in Cuba is not out of Humanitarian reasons, but instead backed by a consortium of corporations eager to return to Cuba and overwhelm the country’s social and political dynamic with 500 Channels of TV and other forms of sensory overload, while simultaneously performing the slight of hand in PRIVATIZATION!!!! Instituting Rich/Upper/Middle/Lower class. (A recipe ripe for the Mafia to capitalize much in the same fashion it did in Russia). This blog is obviously not the forum to have such a lengthy discussion. I simply say Not All Cubans perform “Poodle Tricks” just to be heard on a National Platform. Havana Times, you’re more than welcome to indulge my expanded view of the changing U.S./Cuban relationship, but I doubt it falls in line with your theme of “Big Brother America Finally Forgiving Cuba For Demanding Equal Respect”!!!

  • February 23, 2016 at 11:35 pm
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    Well written given Osmel’s perspective. A few nits however. First of all, it’s an EMBARGO, not a blockade. There are no US Navy vessels encircling the island preventing access and egress. Second, President Obama lives in the White House. I know that Osmel has never been there but nothing in Cuba, and certainly nothing in the Revolution Palace rises to the “dazzling” standard he suggests. Third, I will ask Osmel to consider what happened to the last Cuban who successfully presented a proposal to the Castros for a national referendum. Osvaldo Paya’s Varela Project, pursuant to the Cuban constitution, qualified a similar request be put to a national referendum in 1998. He was subsequently murdered in a staged automobile accident. I believe that many Cubans feel the way Osmel seems to feel as expressed in this letter.

  • February 23, 2016 at 8:55 pm
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    The reintroduction of free enterprise capitalism and/or regime change are two objectives that both center-right Obama, the U.S. Congress and largely the center-right and disinformed U.S. public share .
    The bulk of the U.S. electorate believes free enterprise capitalism to be democratic or at least compatible with it when in reality (capitalism) totally destroys democracy not just in the workplace but in government as well.
    That’s what they want to re-impose on Cuba.
    It was the government of the United Snakes which imposed a virtual state of war on Cuba’s revolution more than half a century ago. It is totally up to the U.S. to call off ITS hostilities and normalize relations .
    Cuba hasn’t instituted similar actions against the U.S. and owes the government of the U.S. exactly ……………………………..NOTHING.
    In a just world, the government and people of the United Snakes would be paying reparations to all Cubans.
    But,,,, things are what they are and we’ll settle for Obama’s executive actions.

    .

  • February 23, 2016 at 7:09 pm
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    Really good letter Osmel! So well done and I hope this gets some press, it’s brilliant!

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