On the 2nd Latin American and Caribbean Summit Held in Cuba

Pedro Campos

CELAC Summit in Havana
CELAC Summit in Havana

HAVANA TIMES — The Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) held in Havana ended last week. Personally, I welcome the Havana Declaration, particularly its references to human rights and citizen participation.

I hope the statements made in this connection go beyond mere “intentions”, as has been the case with so many documents approved at international conferences, documents which, on many occasions, have merely been used by participants as political instruments.

Of course, this document does not reflect the interests of the broad, democratic and socialist Latin American Left, but we can’t expect that of a summit of this nature.

Next to Raul Castro, the president of the one, remaining vestige of the “socialist bloc” once headed by the Soviet Union, we saw Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos, who sought to join NATO, Chavez’ successor, Nicolas Maduro, the current president of Uruguay (a former Tupamaro guerrilla), the president of Paraguay (a capitalist millionaire) and others – social democrats, democrats and the occasional authoritarian president. With the exception of the Cuban leader, all were democratically elected.

Despite the absence of the United States and Canada, the summit afforded us an exhaustive sample of the political spectrum that defines the Americas today.

It was the largest plural gathering that has ever taken place in Cuba, far removed from the meetings of such movements as the Non-Aligned Movement and sectarian and ultra-revolutionary organizations such as the OLAS and OSPAAL, which called for armed struggles in Latin America and Africa as a means of securing independence from colonialism and imperialism (at the risk of falling into the “Soviet” sphere of influence).

Despite the absence of the United States and Canada, the summit afforded us an exhaustive sample of the political spectrum that defines the Americas today. It was the largest plural gathering that has ever taken place in Cuba.

The times were different. Back then, Cuba relied on the generous and multilateral support of the former Soviet Union, the great world power that once arm-wrestled with the United States over control of the planet.

Today, the world has changed and the Cuban government knows it must also change or risk international isolation and all the consequences. Since then, the country has also unquestionably introduced changes to its foreign policy, abandoning all attempts at reproducing Cuba’s armed insurrection in other countries.

The pluralism we catch sight of in Cuba’s current foreign policy, however, isn’t in any way matched by the country’s internal situation, where all dissenting or opposing thought is openly repressed and the government and State continue under the control of the same Party, whose political and military elite makes all of the important decisions in the country, seeking to perpetuate itself in power.

Inside Cuba, there’s more sectarianism than ever before. The ruling elite of the government/Party/State rejects everything which they haven’t decided and determined themselves. It’s all the same to them whether the proposal is made by traditional dissidents or the broad socialist and democratic Left, born of the same revolutionary process and historical circumstances.

For Cuba’s Manichean government, one is either with the government or in favor of imperialism.

That said, I still have hope that the Cuban government will, somehow, honor the commitments it assumed on signing this declaration, particularly its introductory remarks: “Let us work to strengthen our democracies and all human rights for all; let us give our peoples greater opportunities, build more inclusive societies, improve our productivity, broaden commercial relations, improve our infrastructure and connectivity and the networks needed to bring our peoples closer together, work for sustainable development, to overcome inequality and to achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth, so that everyone feels that democracy gives their lives meaning.”

Item one of the declaration states: “We reiterate that our Community is grounded (…) in the protection and promotion of all human rights, the rule of national and international law and the broadening of citizen participation and democracy.”

If the Cuban government wishes to gain credibility in this connection, it will need to do more than meet with different foreign representatives and sign a declaration – it will need to show a similar policy at home.

A true pluralistic vocation with sincere external manifestations can only be the product of a pluralistic and (needless to say) democratic domestic policy. True pluralism is born within.

If the Cuban government wishes to gain credibility in this connection, it will need to do more than meet with different foreign representatives and sign a declaration – it will need to show a similar policy at home.

It is worth pointing out that this would be a good opportunity for the Cuban government to ratify the UN human, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights conventions it has signed, in order to encourage additional, subsequent democratic steps in this direction, even if it involves an arduous process, even if this is done “slowly but surely”, as President Raul Castro is wont to say about the changes brought about by his “reform process.”

In what is supposedly his last term in office, Raul Castro could well open this door – if he wants a bright future for the country and wishes to go down in history as something other than his brother’s successor, that is. Let us hope that’s the case.

I welcome the Havana Declaration signed at CELAC and hope it will not become more dead letter.


17 thoughts on “True Pluralism in Cuba Must Come from Within

  • Daniel Bacardi was even part of the delegation of Cubans who travelled with Fidel Castro to the USA in early 1959, when Castro toured about New York smiling, eating hotdogs and denying the Cuban revolution had anything to do with the Communists.

    Little did Daniel know, in a few months Castro would seize the Bacardi family business. Ironically, several members of the Bacardi family fought in the Cuban War of Independence against the Spanish, when Fidel Castro’s father, Ángel María Bautista Castro, was an officer in the Spanish army.

  • The quote was from Castro. I wanted to point out that the revolution was, ostensibly, to restore democracy and the 1940 constitution. You must acknowledge that Castro claimed not to be a communist, and that many who fought with him were taken by surprise at this turn I events. Castro imposed on Cuba his own brand of thuggery and never gave the people an actual choice. So you can see, the Cuban people have never had any power under Castro. I can point to the Varela project as a recent case in point. The Castros quickly grasped the threat it posed to their rule and promptly quashed it. S in the end all the thousands of signatures and “bottom up” democracy went nowhere. And of course we all know what happened to the author, Oswaldo Paya.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *