On Ambassadors and Dissidents

Fernando Ravsberg

Sunset along the Havana Malecon seawall. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 23 — What an honor it was for us when Jonathan Farrar (the highest US diplomatic representative in Cuba) supported the analysis of BBC Mundo concerning dissidents.  This served to confirm our assessment, because he is extremely qualified on that issue.

It’s a shame though that he wrote it in a secret cable and avoided saying this openly because at that time we were being fiercely attacked from within and outside of Cuba.  We had dared to break the consensus, and that always exacts a dear price.

However WikiLeaks made a reality of the saying “justice comes slowly, but it comes.” Cable # 202438, from April 15, 2009, signed by Farrar and marked as “CONFIDENTIAL,” recognized that our analyses of the opposition were objective.

However, the opinions of the chief American diplomatic [in Havana] were much less polite.  He ended up saying that the dissidents “are more concerned with receiving money than spreading their proposals to wider sectors of Cuban society.”

He explained that in polls made of Cubans requesting US visas, his office found “practically a total ignorance of the personalities in the dissident movement and their organizations,” which caused him to conclude that they lack “resonance among the Cuban people.”

Jonathan Farrar considered that the dissident groups were “dominated by individuals with big egos” and he recommended that they “achieve a certain degree of unity or to at least stop spending so much energy obstructing each other.”

Not even the anti-Castro forces in Miami and Madrid went unscathed.  The diplomat reported that the island’s dissidents complain that the exiles were trying “to undermine local opposition groups so that they can take power when the Castros are gone.”

Farrar said “it is not very probable that they will play any significant role in any government that succeeds the Castro brothers” and he argued that the immediate successors “will be the mid-level officials of that very same government.”

What he reported to his superiors in the secret cable was no secret to diplomats and journalists assigned to Cuba.  What was curious was that it was the Americans themselves who wanted to convince us so that we would report the opposite.

Photo: Ihosvanny

Recently a dissident leader told me that the analysis of Farrar was harsh but accurate.  Maybe that’s true, but I find it quite unjust because the policies of the United States government are also responsible for the current debacle of the Cuban opposition.

As the poet Rabindranath Tagore said, if they close the door to errors, the truth will also remain outside.  In other words, the analysis of the dissident movement will not be complete as long as Washington doesn’t accept its own blame.

It would help them remember that diplomat James Cason gave public instructions to the dissidents about how to organize the struggle against Castro.  Likewise, he converted his house into a headquarters for opposition meetings, including “independent journalists.”

But the biggest paradox resides in the fact that Washington sends millions of dollars to the dissidents every year and later its officials criticize them for “fighting” over their share. It’s like a drug dealer morally questioning the addiction of his customers.

Surely without those “remittances” from the White House, the dissident movement would be very different.  They would be obliged to rely on the people, which would require them doing political work and finding approaches that are attractive to most Cubans.

Also, this would “purify” the anti-Castro movement in Miami, maintaining the true militants of the anti-communist cause and getting rid of the parasites that get rich off of collecting onerous “tolls” from the money earmarked for the opponents.

Perhaps in that way Washington will have the dissident movement of its dreams.  But for the time being, their secret messages have only confirmed that, “normally you see defects on other people easier than in yourself.”

In any case, it’s necessary to be patient.  Maybe a self-critical stance will be “revealed” in the next cables.  As for me, I only want to thank them for the notoriety of appearing in Wikileaks, especially because up to now they’ve treated me with more respect than some heads of state.

Havana Times translation of the Spanish original authorized by BBC Mundo.



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