Our Responsibility in Cuba

Yusimi Rodriguez

HAVANA TIMES, March 20 — Just a little while ago I finished writing the last line of my blog entry “In Cuba, the Party Doesn’t Need Elections” and I’m already starting this second entry, almost without taking a breath. But far from feeling particularly productive, I feel ashamed.

I didn’t spare words or irony to question the existence of a single political party here in my country. The same goes for a constitution that only allows us freedom of speech and the press in accordance with the aims of “socialist” society, and an electoral system designed so that we can’t choose.

Whenever I dare to criticize the Cuban political system, I think back to ten years ago, when I was among the millions of people who signed the constitutional amendment providing for the irrevocability of socialism in Cuba.

The question was not whether I considered socialism as the best option for the country. I’m sure that I thought so at that time, sometimes I still think it is, mainly because I’m increasingly convinced that the system that prevails in this country has little to do with socialism.

But the issue ran much deeper. It was over the right to decide to whether to leave this path of socialism when we wished. Likewise, it was over the right of future generations to leave the path to socialism (or to take the true path to socialism) if they wish.

It’s easy to write, especially if you do it on a website that few citizens have access to in the country. What’s difficult is to act responsibly at the appropriate time. I didn’t. I signed that document without a second thought, without reading it once.

I don’t remember if I considered socialism as being the best option at the time, because I didn’t think about it. It wasn’t my faith in socialism that led me to sign.

Yet I could also say that I signed it out of fear, because that mockery of a referendum was not held by secret vote; the president of each neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) went from house to house collecting the signatures.

But more than anything else, I signed for convenience, out of simple expediency.

I had just gotten a job as an English teacher at the Jose Antonio Echevarria Superior Politecnical Institute, better known as CUJAE.

I had just obtained the status of a university professor, which is less poorly paid than my mid-level colleagues, a little better recognized and a little closer to the possibility of a trip abroad.

I wanted to keep that job. I wanted to preserve the possibility of hoping for a trip. I wanted above all for everything to stay calm, for me to stay out of trouble.

It wasn’t until five years later that I learned that this “support” for the amendment hadn’t had anything to do with “demands and threats by the imperialist government of the United States.”

It was the Cuban government’s response to the Varela Project, which had gathered 11,200 signatures, which was more than the 10,000 signatures required by the constitution from registered voters to propose laws.

The people of Cuba weren’t permitted to become familiar with the Varela Project or what it proposed. But I know that even if had I known what it was about back then in 2002, I still wouldn’t have dared refusing to sign the document that the president of my CDR brought over to my house.

Now I get embarrassed whenever I run into someone who had the courage not to support that constitutional amendment. But at least I can say that I was afraid not to sign it.

Every time a Cuban has the courage to at least say that they were afraid, that they’re still afraid, they’re demonstrating that there is no freedom of expression in Cuba.


8 thoughts on “Our Responsibility in Cuba

  • On a project backed up by the US? That’s debatable…

  • Those 11.200 sigantories of the Varela project are the true revolutionaries. They had guts! Viva Cuba!

  • Yusimi, what a breathtakingly honest post. Rest assured, we’ve all made decisions (even big ones) that we later look back on with regret. Thanks for sharing.

  • Grady,
    As Chico Marx ( not Karl’s relative ) said : “Oh no, everybody knows there ain’t no Sanity Claus ” and yes Cuba needs to move toward a workers democracy and elimination of the top-down bureaucracy which Poder Popular has become..

  • Moses,

    The U.S wages an economic war on a tiny island for fifty years , makes life as hard as it can for the Cuban people in the attempt to have them return to capitalism and then someone like you point fingers and say look how bad things are there and how great things are in the richest country in the world .

    What a totally asinine post.

  • The only thing I’d like to add is my conviction that Article 5 of the Cuban constitution is inimical to the defense of, and the perfection of socialism in that beloved, embattled country.

    It seems to me that a peaceful, single-issue movement to discard Article 5 might unite all those patriots who hope for the evolution of a workable form of socialism.

    On the other hand, I also believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause!

  • It seems to me that is is far too easy for you John to dismiss “nice cars, flashy clothes, luxuries and even the necessities of life” because for you it is a choice available to you to make. With respect, but you sound like a typical white, overfed and overeducated trust fund socialist who eschews capitalist dogma from the comforts of his well-appointed suburban home. How close am I to the truth? As you ponder which way is best for the Cuban people, I suggest you take a trip to Hialeah, Florida where Cuban emigres have tasted the forbidden fruit of luxury (meaning cable TV, a two year-old minivan and whole house central air conditioning) and then ask them if they would be willing to give all that up to live your utopian Socialist dream. You will see how Cubans live who are free to live as they choose.

  • I’m torn between feeling the threat from the United States which is unremitting in its war on Cuba’s socialism; the need to hold fast to socialism even twisted and faulty as state socialism is and taking the also principled stand for true (democratic) socialism in Cuba.

    Will the Cuban people, under severe economic strain from the interminable embargo, do what the Nicaraguan people did when their Sandinista revolution was done in by the U.S threat of eternal terrorist war on the country and that is capitulate and vote in an end to their popular revolution?

    That is the dilemma facing those who remain fast in their allegiance to a socialism that has done so much for all Cubans and which freed from the murderous U.S aggression can do so much more.

    It is throwing the baby out with the bathwater to surrender so that the wealthy, the capitalists and the international corporations can again bring in nice cars, flashy clothes, luxuries and even the necessities of life that, in the end, are denied to those at the bottom of the economic heap.

    Still, democracy is critical, is central , is integral to socialism and strangely democracy is diametrically opposed to the capitalism that some Cubans want to reinstitute .

    The trick is to reform the Cuban electoral system so that it is democratic and not risk losing everything if the Cuban people tired of the hard life ( as is the sole intention of the embargo ) decide to surrender rather than go on fighting the Great Evil.

    It is a decision made more difficult ( again, fully intended based on the length of time the U.S has maintained the embargo ) by a long suffering populace who a few generations past the 1959 have either forgotten or don’t know what the revolution was ll about.

    It is also a decision that once made is very difficult to go back on.

    It is best for the Cuban people to take a look at other developing countries with populations and resources similar to those of Cuba to see what life would be like if the decision is to do what the United States is trying to force them to do before making any such decision .

    And NO , comparing Cuba to the United States as far as being similar and as far as thinking that life in a capitalist Cuba would in any way resemble or could resemble life in the richest capitalist country in the world is just plain nonsensical thinking.

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