True Pluralism in Cuba Must Come from Within

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.

  • Don’t expect much of a reply. …well perhaps some demagoguery on how computers will rule our lives and we will all be living in a utopian communist society in 15 years or so.

  • Although we often disagree about much, I do have to concur there was indeed quite a bit of hunger and want in Cuba before the revolution. The urban poor often lived in rather shabby tenements, but the rural poor, especially in the eastern end of the island lived in terrible squalor.

    Cuba was developing during the two decades prior, with a growing and affluent urban middle class, and a small and very wealthy elite. Urban working class labourers had independent unions and were relatively well paid. Small farmers were also doing relatively fine, but the bottom of the socio-economic heap, the poorest rural blacks, lived in poverty. It is no wonder this sector were the most enthusiastic supporters of the Revolution. They were not much concerned about the niceties of free elections. They wanted food, running water and basic healthcare. The Revolution gave them that. What they lost in the form of human rights and freedoms they never much had before anyway.

    But I disagree with your conjecture that if Fidel had allowed any legal opposition the Cuban revolution would have been overthrown. There was a large and broad based support for profound democratic socialist reform. The support for the Cuban Communist Party remained very limited throughout 1959. But it was Castro’s intention from the beginning to lead the Revolution down the Marxist-Leninist path, and for that to succeed he could brook no opposition. He needed to make a radical defiance of the US in order to polarize and isolate Cuban society.

  • “…there was no real want or hungr in Cuba before the Revolution.” I beg to disagree. During my very first visit to Cuba, as a 16 year-old youth–mid-June through the end of August, 1959–just after the triumph of the Revolution, but before any of Its many social programs had had a chance to be put into effect, I saw plenty of hunger…small children with distended stomachs…raggedy children begging on the streets…homeless folks and families living in truly terrible hovels cobbled together with packing crates, cardboard, etc. Most days I took a bus (#22?) from near the Capitolio out to La Lisa, where I had to transfer to another bus for Arroyo Arenas; along the way I saw truly terrible, heart-breaking poverty–nothing like the severe poverty of the Deep South which I was used to in the States (“shotgun” shacks, shoeless children in rags). I had snap-shots of this, but they were destroyed in Hurricane Andrew in ’92. No, what I saw in Cuba in 1959 was far worse. Despite all the criticisms of the Revolution, nevertheless, It did eliminate much of this truly abysmal poverty (so typical of the rest of Central and South America ’til quite recently, when, thanks to election of more democratic governments and using the wealth provided by the exploitation of natural wealth to truly benefit most citizens and notjust the 1% and their 5 to 10% retainers, the general living standards have now improved.
    I suspect that if Fidel and the others of the Generation of ’59 who made the Revolution had allowed opposition, they would have wound up like Arbenz in Guatamala, Gaitan in Colombia, Mosadek in Iran, Allende in Chile, or so many others, whose democratically elected regimes were overthown (and are daily being overthrown, like Honduras, recently). No, when democracy does not go the way “we” want it to, then we cause it to be replaced with a junta or dictator to “our” liking.
    Still, now, after 55 years, the Cuban people have developed more democratic skills, and such institutions as the National and Provincial Assemblies, the labor unions, the women’s union and other mass organizations need to have real power, from the bottom up, and not be dictated from the top down by the “responsables.” Only then, when all who have a real stake in social progress have real power, can they feel integrated with, and not increasingly alienated from, The Revolution!

  • John, once again you show how little you actually know about the history of the Cuban revolution. Instead of reciting slogans and myths, read some factual history books.

    Thousands of committed revolutionaries like Huber Matos, Carlos Franqui & Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo fought against Batista and against US imperialism in Cuba. They ended up in prison, in exile or shot because they dared to speak out against the growing tyranny of Fidel Castro.

    Here’s a bit of history you should find interesting: In November 1959, the CTC (Confederation of Cuban Workers) held the last free election in Cuba, to chose delegates for the labor congress. Only 5% of the delegates were from the Communist Party, the rest were independent grass-roots labor activists, a result which outraged Raul Castro, who was a committed Communist. In response to the election, Fidel fired the government Labor Minister and appointed the Communist party member, Augusto Sanchez in his place. His assignment was to destroy the independent Cuban labor movement, at which he succeeded.

    Now John, based on your oft repeated comments in support of “true socialism” and against the totalitarian Marxist-Leninist tendency, I would think you would be on the side of the independent Cuban labor unions and opposed to the consolidation of all power by the Cuban Communist Party. So either you are ignorant of the true history of the Cuban Revolution, or you are a liar. Which is it?

    I have never told the Cuban people what kind of political or economic system they should have. I merely call for the Cuban people to have the right to chose their own way, freely and without repression.

    I have pointed out, with reams of documented evidence, that Fidel Castro dictated to the Cuban people what kind of system HE was going to give them. You endorse & support his record. Therefore you are every bit a totalitarian Marxist as he is.

  • No John, that was not what he said.

    The Cuban people, my father among them, supported Castro because he presented himself as one thing, and then, unfortunately for Cuba, became another. Castro said”I am not a communist” ….unfortunately that was a lie.

    The Cuban people have not had the opportunity to decide what kind of government they want because the Castro brothers have kept their boot on the throats of the Cuban people for over half a century! As for support? Cubans flee the island in droves, sometimes risking their very lives attempting to float to freedom on rickety rafts in shark infested waters! Heck of a support. Just recently in these very pages there was a rumor of a ship anchord at the 12 mile territorial limit waiting to take any Cubans who reached it to the US. There was a stampede of supporters looking to reach the boat LOL

  • The fact that the Cuban people supported Fidel and made the revolution successful and even now some 54 years of living a tough life because of the U.S. embargo they continue to support their revolution makes everything you say moot.
    What you have to acknowledge is that, the revolution, with all its faults remains preferable to the bulk of the Cuban population to what was before and what you, Moses and the GOUSA wants to enforce again upon the people of Cuba .
    Your side lost the revolution . You came to the U.S where capitalism is the preferred system . You should be happy .
    Now let the Cuban people have their revolution.
    End the embargo.
    WTF are you to tell them what kind of economy THEY should have.
    You would not want someone you disagreed with telling you what to do would you ?

  • ….as it relates to your comments on economics, they are so hairbraind I wouldn’t know where to begin. I guess this country is fortunate that kooky ideas such as yours are few and far between. I certainly would have bothered to risk my money and reputation to start a business if things worked as you would like. And no I’m not rich, but I sure as heck am working myself in that direction!

  • you are embarrassing yourself. You have no understanding of economics and much less of the Cuban revolution.

    As a famous Castro biographer was quoted as saying (I’m paraphrasing) “The Cuban revolution was born with a silver spoon in it’s mouth” The revolution enjoyed the support of the wealthy and the middle class. One of the many supporters, as Griffen pointed out, was the Becardi family. Pepin Bosh himself (Chairman of Becardi at the time) gave tens of thousands of dollars to castro, as did other family members. Castro himself came from a wealthy family.

    I suggest it is you who should go back and read a little before commenting on that which you know nothing about.

    …and YES, you read correctly. Democracy and capitalism go hand in hand; one empowers the other.

  • You have no idea how the Cuban Revolution actually happened, John. The fact that you contradict Che & Fidel’s own statements shows you have read little and understand even less.

    The rebellion against Batista was supported by a broad cross-section of the Cuban people. Many of the rich supported Batista, but some such as the Bacardi family supported Fidel & the 26th of July Movement. The middle-class were strongly and actively opposed to Batista: this of course, was the bourgeois class from which Fidel & Raul Castro sprung. And poor rural farmers supported the fight against Batista. The urban based Revolutionary Directorate, also from the lower middle-classes, did most of the actual fighting against Batista’s goons, while Fidel hunkered down in the Sierra giving speeches on his radio.

    The one group who did not oppose Batista were the urban trade unions, controlled by the Cuban Communist Party. They endorsed Batista and refused to help the M26.

    It’s important to understand, that all during the fight against Batista, the 26th of July Movement never spoke about a socialist or communist revolution. They publicly pledged to restore the 1940 constitution and to hold free multiparty elections. It was only after Batista had fled and Castro had consolidated his grip on power that he cancelled the promised elections and announced the “socialist character” of his revolution. It was after Batista was defeated that the Cuban Revolution began, and it was organized in a very different direction than most Cubans wanted or expected.

    I am all for allowing the Cuban people to have the kind of government they chose. The tragedy is that Castro never gave them the option to chose.

  • Che was working for Cuba. His own diaries contradict your party line, John.

    Che in the Congo:

    Guevara traveled to the Congo using the alias Ramón Benítez.[172]Guevara led the Cuban operation in support of the Marxist Simba movement, which had emerged from the ongoing Congo crisis. Guevara, his second-in-command Victor Dreke, and 12 other Cuban expeditionaries arrived in the Congo on April 24, 1965 and a contingent of approximately 100 Afro-Cubans joined them soon afterward.[173][174]

    Che in Bolivia:

    He then visited several Western European countries to test his new false identity papers, created by Cuban Intelligence for his later travels to South America. As Guevara prepared for Bolivia, he secretly traveled back to Cuba to visit Castro…

    In a speech at the 1967 International Workers’ Day rally in Havana, the acting minister of the armed forces, Major Juan Almeida, announced that Guevara was “serving the revolution somewhere in Latin America”.

    There’s much more, if you care to read history:

    The president of Algeria publicly thanked Cuba for providing military assistance to his rebels, and for running guerrilla training bases in Algeria in the early 1960’s. It’s public knowledge that the first Cuban troops entered Angola in 1966 to help the MPLA rebels fight the Portuguese.

    Cuban support for revolutionaries throughout South America is also public knowledge. Fore example, Cuban support for FARC is well known and thoroughly documented.

    Fidel’s response does not refute the fact he was supporting revolutions. Not that he was above lying when necessary.

    Like I said, you exhibit an Orwellian ability to ignore facts inconvenient to your ideology.

  • “True democracy goes hand in hand with capitalism.”
    That’s your quote.
    You should take a few hours and think about this, perhaps ask a few friends if they have a part in the decision making at their place of employment , if they take part in deciding how much they will be paid, how many days off they will have, how their work will be done , if they will have medical health care etc.
    The answers will always be that under capitalism your boss is an absolute dictator . It’s the nature of capitalism.
    A rich person or corporation owns the business and hires you .
    You do what they tell you to do or you do not have a job.
    That’s totalitarian so you are dead wrong.
    I find your support of the U.S war on the people of Cuba also to be cowardly, inhumane and repulsive for someone who claims to be for the people of Cuba.
    Were you a humanitarian you would call for an end to the U.S. war on Cuba and demand that the U.S. allow the Cuban people to have the kind of government and society THEY choose.
    The rich and the middle class were responsible for the revolution. ?
    Now you’re going right off the deep end.

  • Griffin,
    If you’d do a little more research, reading , studying history, you’d see that Che Guevara went off on his own in his desire to foment world wide revolution.
    .The Cuban government did not involve itself in his adventures and that is the history.
    Secondly, given the brutal nature of U.S. foreign policy history especially around the time of the Cuban Revolution, it would have been foolhardy for Cuba to attempt counter-capitalist revolutions against the most powerful military in the world .
    In response to the false accusations of Cuba fomenting military revolutions by the United States , Fidel Castro said on more than one occasion that it is impossible to start a revolution unless the conditions already exist and impossible to stop one once those conditions DO exist.
    So …. because you do not have a working knowledge of history, your post is in error.
    Hit the books

  • Whatever you think of US foreign policy, the history of Cuban intervention & support for revolution around the world is well documented. It is strange how your obsessive hatred for the USA has made you blind to reality. Again, you exhibit the defining characteristic of the totalitarian mind: an Orwellian ability to unthink facts contrary to your ideology.

    Think of the absurdity or your claim, “Cuba taking active participation in fomenting revolution is something that only existed in the minds of State Department propagandists”. One only has to look at the example of one of the Cuban Revolution’s greatest heroes, Che Guevara, to realize how wrong you are. Where did Che die? In Bolivia. What was he doing there? Leading a band of armed revolutionaries attempting to foment a revolution. Where was Che before that? Congo. What was he doing there? Leading a band of armed revolutionaries attempting to foment a revolution. Accounts of both of those revolutionary missions are widely and publicly proclaimed in the official Cuban media, and well documented in the dozen or so biographies of Che. His own diaries describe the work he was doing there. Did the CIA write Che’s diaries, John?

    Cuba also armed, trained and sent soldiers to help revolutionaries in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. In the 1970’s Cuba trained and armed Jamaicans who travelled to Cuba under the “brigadista” programme. Under the guise of helping harvest sugar, Jamaican youth were given military training. When a large shipment of Cuban weapons was discovered by Jamaican police in 1980, the Cuban ambassador was expelled and the Jamaica authorities ended their permission for the brigadista missions to Cuba.

    Cuban military advisers have provided guerrilla training outside Guyana to members of a small radical Guyanese opposition group, the Working People’s Alliance. In Grenada, Cuba supported a coup by a radical leftist faction. Cuba also supported revolutionaries in the Dominican Republic. In June of 1959, a group of Cuban commandoes, including the future General Arnaldo Ochoa, launched a disastrous raid on the Dominican Republic.

    Cuba’s support for revolutionaries is public knowledge. Many leaders of the April 19 Movement (M-19), including the founder, Jamie Bateman – who also attended a Communist cadre school in Moscow – were trained in Cuba. Leaders of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Moscow-oriented Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) also received Cuban instruction.

    In Chile, Cuban “advisors” worked with the Marxist president Allende. After the coup by Gen. Pinochet overthrew the nascent Marxist dictatorship, the Cuban government began a program training & arming Chilean revolutionaries from the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR). Once training was completed, Cuba helped the terrorist return to Chile, providing false passports and false identification documents. By late 1980, at least 100 highly trained MIR terrorists had reentered Chile and the MIR had claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and bank robberies. Cuba’s official newspaper, Granma, wrote in February 1981 that the “Chilean Resistance:” forces had successfully conducted more than 100 “armed actions” in Chile in 1980.

    The Cubans have a long history of active backing for terrorism in Argentina. The Cubans were linked to the two groups responsible for unleashing the wave of leftist terrorism that swept Argentina in the early and mid-1970s, the Montoneros and the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP). Cuba backed these organizations with advice on tactics and
    instructions on recruiting operations and with training in Cuba in urban and rural guerrilla techniques. During the height of Argentine terrorism, the Cubans used their embassy in Buenos Aires to maintain direct liaison with Argentine terrorists.

    In Africa, Cuba supported revolutionary movements in Congo, Angola, Namibia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea, and Eritrea. At bases inside Angola, Cuban military trained members of the African National Congress’ military wing. Cuba’s first foray into Africa was Algeria, where the Cuban FAR provided weapons & training to the Algerian rebels of the FLN. After the victory of the Algerian rebels, the Cuban military set up a guerrilla training camp in Algeria. Rebels & revolutionaries from across Africa and the Middle East converged on these camps where they were trained in using rifles, setting bombs and in political indoctrination.

    The list I provided is by no means exhaustive. There were dozens more revolutionary groups around the world which received support by the Cuban government of Fidel Castro.

    I provide a brief list of references, from authors of the Left & Right, who collaborate the fact of Cuban support for revolutions around the world.

  • As a Cuban I find you to be repulsive. Your support of a brutal tyrant that has subjugated the people of Cuba for 50 + years is inexcusable. For that period of time Cubans only eat what they are allowed to, move or relocate only when remitted, denied the right to freedom of association, and restricted in the consumption of news and information….all in the name of your socialist utopia.

    True democracy goes hand in hand with capitalism. To do otherwise would be to deny human nature. In the end your socialist utopias always end up becoming distopian dictatorships. But then again after reading the drivel you post here I could easily see you as “Old Major” or “Napoleon” on the farm.

    By the way Fidel also said the revolution was born with a silver spoon in it’s mouth, and that there was no real want or hunger in Cuba before the revolution. The revolution was fought with support from the rich and middle class and took place for political reasons

  • “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.” – See more at:

    The excerpt above is an example of reforms talked about in capitalist societies but which are not possible under capitalist economies.

    Give people greater opportunities ?

    Neo-liberal capitalism does not do that for the majority.

    Build more inclusive societies ?

    Capitalism works in an opposite direction.

    Improve our productivity ?

    Toward what end ? Make the rich richer ?

    Broaden commercial relations ?

    Between who ? For what purpose ?

    Work for sustainable development ?

    That’s not how capitalism works.

    They saved the worst for last .

    “To overcome inequality and to achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth, so that everyone feels that democracy gives their lives meaning.”
    Capitalism does not work that way. It builds up the wealth of a few .
    Capitalism is a totalitarian system that is the antithesis of democracy .
    Most residents of the Western hemisphere live in and prefer dictatorial/totalitarian societies .
    Their governments are not democratically elected, they love capitalism in which the boss, CEO is an absolute ruler, they are religious and belong to religions which cannot be questioned, they prefer the male-dominated nuclear family structure as well .
    Lastly, I have followed U.S. foreign policy in depth for some 45 years and that bit in the article about Cuba giving up the fomenting of revolutions around the world is simply bullshit.
    The U.S made constant accusations of this but as Fidel himself said on at least two interviews back in the 80s, you can neither foment a revolution in a country in which the revolutionary conditions do not exist nor prevent a revolution in a country in which the conditions have arisen.
    The USG accused Cuba of smuggling arms across the Gulf of Fonseca to El Salvador but never came up with any evidence despite having a radar site on Tiger Island in the gulf.
    Che had ideas of fomenting a world wide revolution but not Fidel and not the Cuban government .
    Yes, they spoke against capitalism and for a socialist society but Cuba taking active participation in fomenting revolution is something that only existed in the minds of State Department propagandists .

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