Ladies in White

A Sterile Confrontation / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya
Posted on February 10, 2015

14ymedio, MIRIAM CELAYA, Havana, 5 February 2015 — On 4
February 2015, the digital magazine Diario de Cuba, published a piece by
Antonio González Rodiles (“Hablar con la Misma Voz) [Speaking with one
Voice] in which the activist refers to an editorial by opposition
lawyer René Gómez Manzano about the similarities between two documents
issued by the independent civil society on the Island: the Four
Points agreed to by the Cuban Civil Society Open Space this past
December 22nd and the roadmap proposed by the Forum for Rights and
Freedoms several days later.

It would have been nice if the editors of Diario de Cuba had made
available Gómez Manzano’s work (“There is no substantial difference
between the Four Points and the Roadmap, published 28 January 28 2015)
through the corresponding link to the digital magazine 14ymedio, where
it was published, but this editorial slip is not the subject of
my analysis. I’m just trying to make some comments and annotations about
the proposals González Rodiles suggested, acknowledging in advance
that I am subject to misinterpretation of his syntax, which is not
sufficiently clear in all of his statements.

In principle, I do not share the preeminence granted by the author to
the opposition’s polarization in “two tendencies” following the
announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the
US and Cuban governments. In any case, whether or not one agrees or
disagrees with the proposals of President Barack Obama on the subject
of the dialogue established with the Cuban regime, that cannot be the
focus of the political aspirations of the civil society, and should be
accepted as “the watershed “to define two opposing parties in the
opposition: those opposed to the approach and who feel
the Cuba-US dialogue will “legitimize” the Cuban regime, and those who
understand that this could expand the possibilities of the Civil Society
within the Island.

The fact that those who choose to bet on the gradual change and seek the
opportunities a new scenario might bring to us have assumed —
without prior agreement and without caucusing the subject — a
common ethical positioning in key aspects, which can be
summarized in two main points: 1. The solution of the Cuban problems and
the achievement of democracy concerns only Cubans and does not depend on
the will or the policies of any foreign government. 2. We have not
disqualified, verbally assaulted, provoked or offended anyone who does
not share our views.

“We have not disqualified, verbally
assaulted, provoked or offended anyone who does not share our views.”

That is why we need to appreciate that González Rodiles’s writing
has finally realized that “both positions demonstrate our commitment to
democracy and the end of totalitarianism”, which infers the
disavowal of the discredit of contradictory opinions.

So one thing is to agree or disagree with the negotiations between the
two governments and quite another is the subject of Open Space and the
Four Points, which exclude consideration to suggest the shortest link
between our democratic aspirations and decisions of the US
government. Mixing both issues in the
same discussion introduces confusion, besides not conforming to reality,
which is evident, for example, in statements such as the
following: “Obama’s policy is applauded by those joined together in the
Open Space, which has several visible elements.”

The truth is that not everyone involved in Open Space “applauds “what
the author generically called “Obama’s policy.” Nor is it clear what
these so-called “visible elements” are, which only reinforce
inaccuracies in the writing. I will take this opportunity to remind you
that the Open Space began well before our learning about talks
between the governments of the US and Cuba.

In another topic, and strictly political in
nature, González Rodiles suggests that those at Open Space who are
committed to dialogue, who lend “legitimacy to the regime” do not
propose “preconditions for the political process” accept “that the
transition process will be (…) in the hands of the actors of the regime,
which presupposes that they will be part of the future of the Island”
and consider “the democratic changes will come as the evolution
of supposed economic transformations” introduced by the regime
itself under the pressure of measures proposed by the US government.

Obviously, such a position ignores the experiences of other transitions,
which have been successful precisely because they have been conducted in
a peaceful and civilized manner within the existing social order, based
on dialogue and negotiations with elements of the very regimes in
power. Such is the case of the exemplary Spanish transition that owes so
much to Adolfo Suárez; the transition in Poland, which brought to the
negotiating table Solidarity, the powerful opposition syndicate and
other actors of the Civil Society, in addition to Wojciech
Jaruzelski; or the Chilean transition which allowed for its dictator,
Augusto Pinochet, to remain as permanent senator, just to name only the
best known examples.

“Other transitions have been successful because they were conducted in a
peaceful and civilized manner within the existing social order”

Achieving peace through political negotiation is not only less
traumatic, but also achieves more permanent effects, though it
unavoidably involves certain concessions, and offers certain
guarantees that are advantageous for both parties.

The only possible alternative to a negotiated solution is
confrontation. But, let’s face it, do the opposition and the
Independent Civil Society in Cuba have the strength and sufficient
resources to face down a government and force it to relinquish its
power? A government that controls the army, the police, and all
repressive bodies and economy? Certainly not. In fact, we have not
even managed to be included in any of the dialogues that have taken
place on the release of political prisoners, despite the critical and
always meritorious action of the Ladies in White movement for more
than a decade, which, despite its value, has failed, so far, in having
people join in their marches or outright reject the repression against them.

It is not only that “the government does not acknowledge us” but about
the weakness we display. Because, while the government, with all its
totalitarian power, has no real legitimacy because it has not been
freely chosen by the “sovereign people,” we have not been chosen as
representatives of the people either, since, for whatever reason, we
have failed to lay a solid foundation among Cubans, therefore we
have no summoning power. In whose “sovereign people’s” name would we be
acting, especially when they are trying to deny our capabilities?

“Human rights and the promotion of democracy, as primary objectives,
should not be masked by other elements. They must be shown especially to
the Cuban people, confused after 57 years of dictatorship, so they can
decide in what direction they want to take this country.” (Underlined as
emphasis by this writer.) This assertion by González Rodiles rules
out that the possibility to economically prosper is one of those
human rights and is also one of the most expedient to empower Cubans
and promote their conversion into independent subjects of the
State-Party-Government, and it is contained in one of the United Nations
Covenants whose demand for government ratification almost all of civil
society has subscribed to. By the way, raising a formal complaint to the
Government, presented to the National Assembly, isn’t that also a way of
legitimizing the regime?

But, continuing with the author’s statement –- numerically incorrect,
since Cuba has already endured 63 years of dictatorship — the core
messianic vision to be taught is that it is essential to teach what one
should know (because, obviously, he does not know) to these “confused”
peoples, who are unable to choose their destiny for themselves and are,
therefore, condemned to the possibility that some individual, touched by
a kind of divine wisdom, will guide them in the right direction, as
F. Castro was able to do in his day. Ergo, the immature people of this
country need a new messiah… one in whom we can supposedly be able to and
should trust. In that sense, it is reassuring that the Roadmap states:
“We will not join the construction of a new authoritarianism”. It is a
real relief; I know that neither will we, the ones of Open Space.

It is true that Four Points favors the benefits to be derived
from “alleged economic transformations,” but considers them as a
potential tool for strengthening an emerging civil society which would
add players — not necessarily politically active subjects — to the
process of change. Those of us who had the opportunity to speak
face-to-face with Roberta Jacobson during her recent stay in Havana
expressed our interest in promoting, concurrent with the plans for
economic empowerment of Cubans, mechanisms that will allow exercising
our human rights, such as freedom of the press, of expression, of
information and of association, all essential instruments of democracy
which must be placed in everyone’s reach.

“We are facing a dilemma that makes us choose between blindness and
pragmatism; between belligerence as an end in itself or the lucidity
to drive change”

But today we are facing a dilemma that makes us choose
between blindness and pragmatism; between belligerence as an end
in itself or the lucidity to take any of the routes that could be opened
to drive change, even if it meant deliberating with our
adversaries. This is how politics functions, which is not an exact
science but social, so it is based on a rational choice in which all
players must replace any preferences or personal interests with the
interests of the nation and of Cubans in general.

One of the Four Points includes the claim of “free, democratic
and competitive elections” and “recognition of the legitimacy of the
independent Cuban civil society within the Island and in the diaspora as
a valid spokesperson” so that the charge of “ambiguity “or “lack of
transparency” that we have been accused of is, at least, futile.

If politics, in its most succinct definition, is the art of turning the
possible into reality, how to achieve a social contract where we are
recognized, when there are factions among us particularly interested in
preventing any possible consensus, however small? How will our enemies
not disqualify us if, within the ranks of the civil society there
are elements that refuse to recognize the “others”? What
does González Rodiles mean by “discuss with complete clarity,” “serious
and direct debate,” “maturation of the actors and the political scene”
or the need for “certain political trust among stakeholders” when, in
fact, he himself refuses to participate in meetings where he presupposes
that there is a conspiracy against him? Conspiracy that, in addition,
already reached international borders, since it suggests that US
authorities “give preference” to those who approve of its new policy
of non-confrontation and exclude those who do not share in it. I
call here for restraint and modesty.

It would be extremely extensive to exhaust in a single article all
easily refuted topics in González Rodiles’s speech, so I prefer to wrap
up by commenting on a criticism about Four Points which turns
amphibological; i.e. that the same could be applied to his Roadmap. This
is the supposed sin of not tracing a “methodology” “to achieve one’s
goals.” For some reason, he did not understand that Four Points is not
exactly an itinerary or an agreement document, but
a consensus position which we hope will help us advance
the delicate path of future councils.

But the truth is that the strategy with which the Roadmap is expected to
reach was not exposed either, which in itself is inconsistent, even
with the title of the document. What will be the next stop or
destination of that Map? Peccadillo.

I don’t mean to wear myself out in a sterile confrontation; there is too
much work to do. When González Rodiles proposed “To speak with one
voice” perhaps I was thinking something like “Speaking with my voice,”
which is not bad, as long as he doesn’t intend to possess the gift of
absolute truth to save us all. The effort is appreciated, but,
personally, I decline such a legacy. Following the musical analogy he
proposed, I already belong to a larger orchestra, fortunately dissonant,
called Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: A Sterile Confrontation / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya | Translating
Cuba –

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