Roberto Veiga Gonzalez*
HAVANA TIMES — Cuban society is going through a period of change and faces two major challenges. First, to enable and coordinate all the cultural, social and political diversity that exists in the nation. Secondly, to ensure that it does so with fidelity to the fullest possible welfare of all social strata down to grass roots level in Cuba.
To do so it needs to develop a high level sensitivity to avoid outfall and damage from political competition, such as pursuing policies aimed at social evolution at the expense of the almost obsessive desire of many Cubans, so obsessive it almost seems unique, to annihilate anyone presenting different proposals. On the other hand, it also demands understanding, highlighting and promoting loyalty to the deepest longings of the Cuban people.
For this we need a minimum social consensus from which all the political and ideological diversity of the nation can be deployed. Cubans seem to share a set of aspirations, which, regardless of our capacity historically to give them concrete expression, touch on the key aspects of the path we have to take to achieve a better present for our people while remaining true to the essence of its deepest desires.
Everything appears to indicate that these shared aspirations evidence the longing to engage with the responsible exercise of liberty, with a deep sense of equality, with close social and family ties, with active solidarity, with tenacious efforts in favor of justice, especially for the most disadvantaged, with the socialization of all the wealth we are able to produce, with the achievement of a citizens’ democracy, with universal access to culture, information, education and health, with a clear call for universality, and a passion for sovereignty as a nation, understood as territorial independence and the empowerment of its citizens.
It might seem that defining these ambitions and bringing them together constitutes an ideology. And if we understand an ideology as a systematized set of criteria, this might well be true. However, it is not an ideology if we understand an ideology to be an inflexible, defined axiom which dictates and defines its own application to the smallest detail.
When speaking of a minimum consensus, I never at any time conceived of these ideals as being the only ones worth giving concrete expression to, nor of there being only one way to achieve them. However, it has helped to convince me that any political agenda should feel obligated to elaborate and develop these elements of the, let us say, dim but flowering Cuban collective consciousness. This turns out to be the loyalty I support in respect of all the political tendencies of the nation, whether in government or not.
Understanding, acceptance and commitment to this minimum consensus could be an element able to facilitate a meeting ground and conformity between many political positions, and thus contribute to the harmonious integration of our ideological diversity. And what is more important, is to do so while remaining at the same time loyal to the people and pursuing its highest good.
To help achieve this, we have an abundant need of personal attitudes such as honesty, magnanimity, courage, tenacity, responsibility, comprehension, dialogue and understanding (all attitudes that can lead to a climate of political trust and agreement between the different parties). But it is imperative also to redefine our social and state frameworks, without which all this would be a long march to nowhere.
In this regard, my proposals include: defining the basis of an economy that wants to open itself increasingly to economic initiative in all its forms, and demanding social responsibility from all of these forms; Facilitating the power of association, since the proper and just functioning of any social model rests on the responsible actuation of a civil society that is both strong and demanding, educated and effective, heterogeneous and has solidarity; restructuring the functioning of parliament to make it more active and systematic, and modifying the process of election of MPs (deputies), so there is a measure of competition based on candidates projections, and also achieve a strong, flexible and positive relationship between representatives and electors.
Other proposals are: reformulating the balance of powers between national, provincial and local executive bodies, in order to guarantee both security and national cohesion, as the initiatives necessary for local potential; redesigning how we elect the highest authority of each municipality and each province as well as the head of State and Government; widening the possibilities for citizens and institutions to control the respect and promotion of constitutional precepts; incorporating constitutional initiatives by citizens; revising the balances between the legislative, executive and judicial functions; stripping the Communist Party of Cuba of all the elements that position it as a control mechanism, placed above society and the State; allowing the performance of other political forces, but within a democratic context ensuring citizen sovereignty and preventing partisan forces from kidnapping the country; and redefining our rights as citizens.
The challenges to Cuba to continue building are many and great. This historical moment requires our envisaging an ideal Cuba as well understanding the need to devise possible ways to approach it. A public dialogue about the challenges which we all face would be most welcome.
* This paper was presented by the author at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) which met in the city of Miami from 31 July to 2 August 2014.