Editorial 37. Jan-Feb-2014
THE “COMMON STAND” WE CUBANS NEED.
The European Union established, on December 2nd 1996, a common stand regarding its relations with Cuba. It has been, in practice, the least common of stands of the European Union regarding any country in the world.
The essential thing of the contents of the Common Stand, it’s good to remember, is one purpose with two constituents, a political one and an economic one “as well”: “to promote the process of transition to a pluralist democracy and the respect for human rights and fundamental liberties as well as a recovering and sustainable improvement of the living standard of Cubans” (Common Stand toward Cuba (96/697/CFSP).
Let’s notice that the Common Stand promotes the pluralist democracy and the respect for Human Rights and at the same time it wishes to promote a recovering and improvement of the living standard of Cubans, something that refers to substantial, necessary and urgent economic reforms. To eliminate the Common Stand would mean to reject both goals of the same purpose? Would it mean to reject only one? Which one?
They are debating now if the Common Stand will stay or if it will be revised due to the insufficient reforms carried out by the government in Havana. According to Granma, the Minister of Foreign Relations of the Netherlands Kingdom has said: “It’s time the European Union brought its relations with Cuba up to date”. Granma, January 7 2014, p. 5).
What is “to revise”, “to bring up to date” or “to eliminate” the Common Stand of the European Union with Cuba?
If we understand that “to revise” or “to bring up to date” is to catch up and change what has remained outdated then the contents of the Common Stand regarding the essential things which are the respect for Human Rights and the democratization on the part of the Government in Cuba should stay in the next text, if there is one; at the same time, the European Union should make reference to the reforms that slowly and insufficiently are being done by the Cuban government which, on the other hand, maintains repression and systematic violation of Human Rights. This is the correct evaluation that appears in the first Report by the Civil Society Group of Consultants and the present situation is summarized there in two words: “Reform and repression” (www.convivenciacuba.es/consultores). In our opinion, this updating is ethically acceptable because it allows revising periodically the situation of Human Rights and the economic reforms as well in order to encourage them.
If we understand that “to eliminate” the Common Stand is to leave the topic of respect, defence and education on human rights out of the negotiations and the relations between the European Union and Cuba then it would be ethically unacceptable; it would be ethically unacceptable too to leave them just in the letter or in private conversations, or to silence them in public and also not to acknowledge the independent civil society and to place the commercial and economic interests above the dignity and the rights of Cubans.
A reliable mechanism for the evaluation of Human Rights in Cuba is needed.
In order to update or eliminate as well the essence of the Common Stand, a reliable mechanism is indispensable so as to do a systematic and independent evaluation of the situation of Human Rights and reforms for democratization in Cuba. This mechanism would allow the European Union to maintain, deepen or cancel the bilateral Agreement, or at least suspend it in case the worsening of the situation of Human Rights in Cuba is proven.
Civil society has created by itself, and without political commitments with any country or blocks of countries, a mechanism of evaluation every three months; it’s an objective and moderate evaluation on the situation of Human Rights in Cuba agreed by consensus; it’s called the Cuban Civil Society Group of Consultants. This independent mechanism does not exclude the participation of other non-governmental organizations or the official reports on Human Rights.
Constructive political dialogue, yes, negotiation, yes, but respecting Human Rights in Cuba.
We wish no confrontation. We don’t want the isolation of Cuba. Quite the opposite, we wish Cuba to open up itself to Cubans; we wish Cuba to open up itself to the world to be a part of the community of democratic and prosperous nations; we also wish the world to open up itself to Cuba just as Pope John Paul II said in Havana during his unforgettable visit in 1998.
We believe that dialogue and defence of Human Rights are not exclusive things. We consider that in a true and serious negotiation it’s not acceptable to exclude the topic of Human Rights or the mechanisms that evaluate them periodically or any of the parts that should sit at the table: government, European Union and civil society. That’s why our proposal, as citizens, is to hold talks including the topic of Human Rights and their evaluation; also, to reach a possible negotiation that should be, at the same time, respectful toward the sovereignty of the Nation and respectful toward the Human Rights and the sovereignty of Cuban citizens.
We Cubans are and should be the protagonists and defenders of our rights.
We also should say that regardless of the stand of the European Union or the stand of the United States and other countries and regional blocks, the present and the future of Cuba is the responsibility and an inalienable right of Cubans who are and should be the protagonists of our personal and national history.
First of all, and simultaneously with any international negotiation, we Cubans should solve our own problems of violation of Human Rights, reforms toward democracy and sustainable development, among Cubans. If we Cubans don’t hold a “common stand” on minima topics which does not mean unanimity or exclusion of anybody or lack of respect for diversity, we will hardly be able to demand from other countries, close or far, a common stand regarding Cuba. That is the “common stand” that we Cubans need.
A solution among Cubans: to look for our own “Common Stand”.
This “common stand” could have, among others, these points:
- 1.Human Rights, all of them, for all Cubans, should be the common stand, the ethical measuring stick of the acts by the Cuban government, the political opposition and the whole civil society.
- 2.The dialogue that, with good reason, the government is striving to hold with the United States, the European Union, Latin America, the Caribbean and the rest of the world, should be also endorsed by the dialogue with its own citizens from the opposition and the independent civil society.
- 3.The acknowledgement of independent civil society by the government; civil society as a valid and legal interlocutor, its evaluations on Human Rights and its proposals for transformations, which are respectful for national sovereignty, for pacific methods and the inclusion of all, should be taken into account.
- 4.The negotiations with the international community sought by the Cuban government, with good reason and necessity, should be legitimized by a serious, systematic and legal negotiation among all sectors of civil society, including those who disagree with the official proposals.
Without exclusions or discredit.
Besides the common points said above, some common attitudes would also be necessary such as:
- The Cuban government should not discredit or exclude anyone but recognize the rights of the whole civil society.
- The civil society accepted by the Government should not exclude or ignore the other part of the independent civil society. The ones accepted should not consider themselves the moderate ones, thus considering the others to be radicals who can be excluded. In Cuba there is no extreme radicalism or violent dissidents as in almost every country in the world. How could we speak here of radicalism if all are pacific fighters?
- The independent civil society which is more dissenting but not radical or violent should not either exclude any Cuban who is inclusive and respectful for all political options which are pacific and sovereign. If we decide to be willing to hold talks with the Government searching for pacific and democratic solutions we must be available for sitting at the same table with other Cubans who dissent to a lesser degree than others but who have the same end; they don’t supplant other sectors of civil society and they don’t either lend themselves to ignore these other sectors.
To refuse this inclusive and critical dialogue; to refuse negotiations among all Cubans is to refuse the pacific way. He who closes the door to dialogue and negotiation opens the door to violence even if he doesn’t want it, precisely because things cannot continue the way they are in Cuba and an urgent and efficient solution must be found among all of us and this task is and should be with all and for the benefit of all Cubans without exclusion.
Once more we say it, more and more urgently: “the way solutions start is not important; the only requirement is that no one should stay out; all parts should be at the negotiating table”. The ones who get first to the negotiating table have the duty and the right to put the ones who have not been admitted yet on the table. That is the principle of inclusion and non-segregation of the different sectors of society.
Let us support, look for and build this “Common Stand” among all Cubans, respecting the unity in diversity, without exclusions, replacements, or discredit. That is the true and main “common stand” that we must defend and build among all of us.
If we were able to reach this “Common Stand” in Diversity among all Cubans, the other Common Stand would be added unto us.
Or what is better, it would not be necessary anymore.
Pinar del Río, January 28th 2014
161st Birth of José Martí.