Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Wi-Fi on the Malecon seawall avenue. Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Raul Castro’s speech at the National Assembly a couple weeks ago officially announced that the country finds itself with its feet deep in a new crisis once again. The consequences of Venezuela’s critical situation have greatly marked our economy for the worse; we depend greatly upon our trade relationship with this country, which has been politically twinned with our own.

Once again we’ve fallen into the same problem: depending on the fraternity of a prominent trade partner and then entering a crisis when our “great ally” withdraws or falls into disgrace. It happened with the US, with the USSR and now it’s happening with Venezuela. One of the Revolution’s objectives was allegedly to overcome this flaw, but Cuba remains a dependent and vulnerable country.

To be honest, this isn’t a new crisis: it’s the renewal of the general crisis of socialism in Cuba (paraphrasing a Marxist concept about the situation of global capitalism). The special thing about it though is that it comes at a crucial time: the historic generation is being forced to leave the reins of power as their time is running out; the easing of our relations with the US has begun to be dispelled; and Cuban youth are emigrating en masse. Cuban civil society should therefore have a clear idea, be more active and organized than ever in order to play the decisive role that they should as a driving and regulatory force of the imminent “change” that has to happen.

It’s fantastic that proof of the Government’s inability to move the country forward with its dressed-up reforms has come now and not five years down the road. It would have been five years down the drain along with the useless hopes of many sincere and innocent Cubans.

Raul Castro hasn’t been able to achieve a great deal in his 10 years of power, he’s only made tiny steps forward reclaiming certain rights, which aren’t the most pressing or critical. Even his solutions, because they’re tied to the dynamics of our dysfunctional system, have only encouraged more bureaucracy and corruption.

Now, while he’s announcing the Conceptualization of his model and the National Development Plan up until 2030 on the one hand, he’s telling us that we’re even weaker than we were 10- years ago when he came into office. The economy is badly damaged but according to our president, us Cubans are better prepared than ever because we’ve lived through and gained experience from the criticial Special Period crisis of the ‘90s. More than a compliment, this is pure sarcasm.

I think it’s time that the Government was pressured into listening to independent civil society. And it’s time that the entire world sees us Cubans do something brave and fair to get us out of this predicament. However, in order to do this we need to be united and have good judgment. We Cubans should hold a Convention for Change in Cuba, where every political and socially influential actor, on and off the island, is summoned together.

Looking for the future. Photo: Juan Suarez

Every kind of Cuban organization, NGOs and independent journalists should take part in this process for change. It should be held in Jamaica, as transport will be less expensive and will avoid migratory opportunism. I’m sure there’s an NGO out there that will cover the costs for Cubans from Cuba to attend such a congress.

A congress of this nature, which should be held this year, should analyze:

  1. Democracy in Cuba: today and in the future.
  2. Human rights in Cuba: today and in the future.
  3. The Cuban economic crisis and proposed solutions.
  4. The migration crisis.
  5. Cuba and its emigration: national reconciliation.
  6. The Cuban political crisis and proposed solutions.
  7. Roadmap for change in Cuba.

This last point is the most important in defining and creating real change. If we Cubans were able to reach a consensus on the plan of action we should take and speak in unison with one single voice to our Government and the world, we could be successful. In order to be a viable plan of action, I think this roadmap should be based upon the following points:

  1. Not asking for the war to be won, but by forming an agreement that benefits our country. For example, we shouldn’t aspire to “throw out” our government today, we should instead sit down with them at the negotiations table and make them realize that other parties and political figures have the right to influence and participate in Cuban politics.
  2. Demanding new laws to be put into effect immediately, regarding freedom of our media, freedom of political association and returning émigré’s their civil rights.
  3. Demanding a larger opening for our national private sector, residents and émigrés, allowing them to freely create and manage their own businesses.
  4. Demanding a new constituent assembly process for 2018, when the National Assembly and Government finish their terms. Approving a general referendum and in the same year, creating a new Constitution and later in 2019, a new National Assembly with plural representation.
  5. If Raul Castro himself were to agree, he could act as the leader of a Provisional Government up until 2021, when the first free elections of the millennium could be held in Cuba.

I believe heading towards our final goal in this way, would be the best thing to do. Once we’ve established a new political order, a democratic parliament and a democratically elected government, a new democratic Constitution and a more empowered and influential civil society, we can begin to rebuild our country. The world is eager to see Cuba change direction and to survive the crisis; I think we’d receive a good reputation because of this.

Workers at the Arts and crafts fair. Photo: Juan Suarez

Furthermore, with our strategic geographical position, the end of the US embargo and the valuable resources we have will attract a lot of foreign investment for our future development. Not to mention all those Cubans who live abroad, many of whom are in a good financial position to also invest in their motherland. I firmly believe in our economic and human potential.

It’s more difficult for me to believe, however, in our ability to set aside our interests and differences in order to support a project for change such as this one: practical and fair. If we were able to hold a congress, it would be very sad to see that, afterwards, it be reduced to fruitless tensions that will only stand in the way of us reaching a final consensus; or that the proposal ends up being impossible, draped in the Cold War and that all it does is give the government more weight to speak badly about their opposition. We’ve already lost wars and fantastic opportunities in the past because of these autocratic and ideological barriers; I just hope we don’t do it again.

Let’s take the example of South Africa for instance, where after a criminal policy such as that of apartheid, instead of hate and legal persecution, agreements and mutual apologies were made. It’s hard to forgive and turn the page in order to move forward, but if we want to be constructive, then this is the best option.

Cuba needs to take a similar direction in order to make progress. It’s just an idea, I’m just one person. Criticizing helps but it doesn’t solve the problem. There are a lot of people nowadays who criticize and very few who are actually doing something. If every one of us pulls at what interests them the most, only focusing on our differences rather than what brings us together, we’ll never be constructive and we’ll never have a better Cuba. Let’s stop and think seriously about our future and then act: our country depends on us.

18 thoughts on “Possible Roadmap for Change in Cuba

  • Sorry, in the comment below I mistakenly took your comment to George as a response to me. Your stats are helpful. Any estimates of the size of the informal economy? Where would you recommend I go for stats over time? In the past I’ve used the CIA’s World Factbook and an online European encyclopedia whose name escapes me.

    The reason I want stats over time: How has that $21 stand in relation to five years ago? Ditto for the employment rate. What’s clear to me is that Cuba, probably like the Soviet Union, produced human capital (trained professionals) proportionally well in excess of developed cultures that follow the U.S. model. That explains some of the resentment I’ve long seen among Cuban professionals and maybe also why we in the U.S. are having fits in trying to deal with Russian computer hackers. They have more talent. I’d like to know how that happened, and I’d like to know what the Cuban government sees and is concerned about as it weighs options for the future. If what you say is true about the centrality of la familia–I don’t doubt you as it’s the same in Mexico–that doesn’t bode well for the development of a civil society.

  • When I go to Cuba, which may be as soon as summer 2017, I hope to spend no time in the tourist areas. I speak Spanish and I like to wander. My wife is from Mexico City and I’ve roamed lots of places there, including places where I could literally feel the fear of folks around me. I’ll try to learn what I can in Cuba but I don’t have unrealistic expectations about that because I know I’ll be a stranger.

    I’m sure we’d have a problem if we met. Your pity for me would meet with my lack of concern for the psychic horrors experienced by professionals. I mean, I’d be a little concerned about them but there are other concerns that occupy my thoughts more. I believe in reality but at this point in my life, I know that reality is plural, not singular, and that folks who live in one reality typically don’t know much about other realities. That fellow who wrote last week about drinking a Heineken. Re-read his post and look closely about what he has to say about the rural poor. His idea was since the poor have never known better, they don’ suffer as much psychically as sensitive professionals do at the lack of stuff. Well, we are all God’s children. We all suffer.

  • I know hundreds of Cubans and few of them talk of being proud of the 57 years of Castro family communist dictatorship.

    You obviously know little of a life where you purchase illicit rum, take a taxi particular (that’s not a taxi as you understand them, but an old converted truck) from your town of work to your rural home town where you sell the rum and purchase eggs to take back to your town of work to sell.

    That is reality – I speak of what my professionally employed wife actually did to support her family. That is relating actual history – don’t try to re-write it!

    If that is your idea of “exciting years, proud years” then I pity you.

  • I hope richardmuu that you have opportunity to walk around real Cuba rather than just the beautiful usual tourist sites and that you meet Cubans other than those employed in the tourist services.
    Don’t be afraid to venture into dilapidated areas where most Cubans live and try talking to them as you may well find some with some English. They are in general a kind people but always trying to find a way to obtain some form of support. As you may have noted, “Informed Consent” writes of Cubans trying to “resolver” as they try to address tomorrow (manana) and how to live.
    The average monthly earnings for a Cuban are under $21 US per month. 5.2 million of the population of 11.1 million work. So if you do a quick calculation the average Cuban, man woman and child lives on little more than 33 cents per day. The monthly subsidized rations provide sufficient nutrition (1800 calories per day) for about 14 days.
    Cubans are a proud people with a historic culture. They have survived much strife and a succession of revolutions. The social structure is built around “La familia” and the soul of the country is its music.
    Enjoy Cuba!
    Carry some paper hankies!

  • The question has got nothing to do with the US!
    Is your view that “Fidel has always governed in the interests of the people” based upon personal experience of living in Cuba, or upon hearsay?
    Cuba currently is divided into the powerful and the weak. The Castro family regime exerts total power and control and dissent is illegal. With that power has come a degree of acquisitiveness in the form of property plus private island retreat with yacht and 27% shareholding in ETECSA the monopoly telephonic company.
    The population of the weak has those average earnings of $20.68 per month, food rations, medical services and an indoctrinating education system.
    That may be your idea of the good life, but it certainly is not regarded as such by those who suffer it – the people of Cuba!
    For some odd reason, Americans appear compelled to write about problems in their own country rather than addressing those experienced in Cuba.
    Government by referendum would be chaotic – but maybe that is what you wish for? A form of anarchy?
    You are correct in indicating that the Castro regime has denied Cubans open access to the Internet.

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