On the last June 24th 2008 the European Union Council lifted the diplomatic sanctions imposed to the Cuban Government after its unjust decision of imprisonning 75 persons for thinking differently and shooting three black young men who tried to illegally escape from the country, during the sadly remembered “black spring” of 2003.
This is an open-to-dialogue decision and a positive gesture that the European Union has clearly sent to the new government in Cuba. We believe that every effort in this direction is welcomed by the Cuban people which does not want confrontation at all, which does not want entrenched attitudes or stuburnness that only benefits the most conservative positions that cling to the past and try to revert the normal and gradual advance of history which is unstoppable regarding fundamentalist ideologies of persons or groups.
We consider that in Cuba there have changed only two fundamental things: one, the representative figure of the Government; and two, the exponential and accelerated growth of the expectations of the citizens.
Indeed, every person is unique and unrepeatable and deserves as much respect as every one of his fellow citizens deserves, either the new rulers with their own personalities or the ordinary people who are always subjects of rights and sovereignty. In Cuba, the rest of things have not change in essence. There is even evidence of verified and verifiable represion, harassment and violation of the most elementary civic, political and economic rights. However there are at least two ways of appreciating reality and this is clearly seen in an increasing way and two ways of responding before the unappealable challenge of reality, from the spheres of the government and from its political leadership.
One of these ways of appreciating the Cuban reality are the mentioned Conclusions of the European Union Council. To do this analysis we have waited around two months to avoid natural visceral assessments that could cloud us; to wait for the possible answers from the Cuban Government and above all to let the essential in politics, which is not visible, have a reasonable time of reception.
As citizens, we wish to offer our appraisal about the letter and the spirit of the Conclusions of the European Union Council apart from the results that can be achieved by this new purpose of serious and responsible political dialogue:
1. The Conclusions of the European Union Council about Cuba on June 24th 2008 are a diplomatic transparent and respectful action which offers a high view of the present reality in Cuba and its future.
2. This document reflects a plural attitude on the part of the European countries regarding Cuba, and has achieved a balance among the principles and ends of the Common Position of 1996. The ends of supporting the democratization of the Country, of keeping a political dialogue with the Cuban Government and the cooperation for development provided there is political will and changes in that direction remain valid today.
3. The mentioned Conclusions have demonstrated a high degree of tolerance and confidence in the new government of Cuba to offer it the opportunity of implementing the political, economic and social reforms that the Cuban people need. No government with 50 uninterrupted years in power has ever received such a degree of consideration any place in the world. This is maybe what amazes and disconcerts many persons who can distinguish a democratic system from the contrary.
4. We wish to point out the considerations that appear in the Conclusions which, in our opinion, express such degree of confidence bestowed on the debutante Cuban Government. Allow us to enumerate, separately, those four aspects in favor of the new leadership, taking thus the European Union, the initiative , waiting for a constructive answer with tangible results:
a. It asserts that the Cuban government has started changes and it supports them:
“The Council notes the changes undertaken so far by the Cuban Government. The Council supports liberalizing changes in Cuba and encourages the government to introduce them”.
b. It reiterates the sovereignty of the citizens independent from the State and states that it is willing to give not only humanitarian aid but coperation for development:
“The EU reiterates the right of the Cuban citizens to decide independently about their future and remains ready to contribute positively to the future development of all sectors of Cuban society including through development cooperation instruments”.
c. It reiterates its willingness to resume a comprehensive, open, unconditional, non-discriminatory dialogue, reciprocal and result-oriented:
“As stated in the Council Conclusions of 18 June 2007, the EU stands ready to resume a comprehensive and open dialogue with the Cuban authorities on all topics of mutual interest. Since June 2007, preliminary discussions on the possibility to launch such a dialogue have taken place at Ministerial level between the EU and Cuba and bilaterally. This process of dialogue should include the whole range of potential fields of cooperation including the political, human rights, economic, scientific and cultural spheres and should take place on a reciprocal, unconditional, nondiscriminatory and result-oriented basis. Within the framework of this dialogue, the EU will outline to the Cuban Government its views on democracy, universal human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
d- It lifts the diplomatic measures of the year 2003:
“The Council therefore agreed to pursue the above mentioned comprehensive political dialogue with the Cuban Government. In this context, the Council agreed to the lifting of the already suspended 2003 measures as a means to facilitate the political dialogue process and enable the full use of the instruments of the 1996 Common Position”.
5. In the very document of the Conclusions appear these other six aspects which, in our opinion, express the degree of confidence bestowed by the European Union to the democratic oposition and the independent civil society in Cuba:
a. It requests the government the respect for the human rights, the liberation of the political prisoners and the possibility of the prisons to be visited by international organizations:
“The Council called upon the Cuban Government to improve effectively the human rights situation by, inter alia, releasing unconditionally all political prisoners, including those who were detained and sentenced in 2003. This remains a key priority for the EU. It also calls on the Cuban Government to facilitate access of international humanitarian organizations to Cuban prisons”.
b. It requests the ratification, the implementation and the undertaking of the Human Rights Covenants:
“The Council further called upon the Cuban authorities to ratify and implement the recently signed International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and urged again the Cuban Government to make real the commitment to human rights it has demonstrated through the signing of these two human rights covenants”.
c. It asserts again that it will continue the dialogue with the three sectors of the Cuban society: government, opposition and civil society. It mentions and differentiates for the first time, these three social actors:
“The Council confirmed its renewed commitment to and the relevance of the Common Position of 1996, and reaffirmed its determination to pursue a dialogue with the Cuban authorities as well as with representatives of civil society and democratic opposition, in accordance with EU policies, in order to promote respect for human rights and real progress towards a pluralist democracy”.
d. It underlines that it will offer support for a pacific change and asks the Cuban Government to grant freedom of information and expression, including the access to Internet:
“The Council underlined that the EU will continue to offer to all sectors of society practical support towards peaceful change in Cuba. The EU also reiterated its call on the Cuban Government to grant freedom of information and expression including access to the Internet and invited the Cuban Government to cooperate on this matter”.
e. It asserts again that it will maintain the contacts with the democratic opposition. It thus recognizes, once more, as opponets, the ones the Cuban Government calls mercenaries and traitors:
“The Council reaffirmed that its policy for EU contacts with the democratic opposition remains valid. During high level visits, human rights issues should always be addressed; when appropriate, meetings with the democratic opposition will be part of high level visits”.
f. It establishes a time and a content for the evaluation of this process of political dialogue and it underlines again paragraph two about the respect for human rights and the liberation of political prisoners:
“On the occasion of the annual review of the Common Position, the Council will proceed in June 2009 to an evaluation of its relations with Cuba including the effectiveness of the political dialogue process. Following that date, the dialogue will continue if the Council decides that it has been effective, taking into account in particular the elements contained in para 2 above".
We consider that these Conclusions of the European Union have placed in the center of the matter, in a clear and reiterated way, the two foundations that cannot be waived and must rule the international relationships in today’s world: the respect for human rights and the cooperation for development. In that order and with that priority.
We appreciate these Conclusions as a lesson of pacient international politics and maximum respect and tolerance until trying every diplomatic resource when dealing with systems that are not attached to democratic norms. Norms that are inclusive and defend the Human Rights. Norms that are internationally recognized, even by Cuba itself.
These Conclusions are good for the community of european nations: Once more they have given an opportunity to civilized dialogue. A good opportunity for the Cuban people: Once more we receive the attention, the acknowledgement of our citizen sovereignty and the solidarity for a democratic pluralist change on this part of the international community. And a good opportunity for the Cuban government: Once more it has been respected, considered as a valid party for a political comprehensive dialogue, open, reciprocal, non-discriminatory, and for the seek of tangible results and furthermore it receives the opportunity to integrate itself to the instruments of cooperation for development that the European Union offers.
This has been the gesture and the letter. A sign of respect and confidence for the new Cuban government as well as for the democratic opposition and the civil society. Now we have to expect the answers and the facts from the Cuban Government and from the very European Union when putting into practice these Conclusions from its Council. We think that this should be a patient process, to be evaluated. A frank, faithful, transparent and participatory process for the Cuban and for the European governments, as well as for the democratic opposition and the Cuban Civil society that should be accuratelly informed and taken into account, and they should look for and win a space by themselves, a dignified and significant space in this dialogue, according to the quality of their contributions, possibilities and abilities.
We hope that the Cuban government think more about an inclusive Cuba than about itself; resume this high level dialogue with the political pragmatism and the diligence required by the present situation in our country and in the world; attached more and more to the real needs and to the inalienable rights of each Cuban without discredit all who have earned credibilty and without excluding the ones who should be included; acknowledge the independent Civil society as the receiver of its proposals and at the same time as a valid party to evaluate its administration.
We hope the democratic opposition that wishes to stay in the country, as recognized by the European Union, think more about an inclusive Cuba than about itself; identifies with realism and transparency what should be changed, but above all, devise, arrange and look for the more adecuate means and rythm to propose how, when, with whom and from where those changes will be done. The perspective of the future should come first than the laments over the past. The proposals for the present should be pragmatic and ethical, known and shared by the greatest number of citizens. The democratic opposition should recognize the Civil society as the receiver of its proposals and at the same time as a valid party to evaluate its steps.
We hope the Civil society, well differentiated and recognized by the European Union, which wants to recognize itself as different from the government and from the partidist opposition, starts its civic education, its reconstruction from its foundations, its organization in a plural, multicolor, non-partidist, inclusive, democratic national framework. We hope the Civil society will be a dynamo of society and a demanding party for polititians and rulers. We hope it will support everything good that comes out of those actors and we hope it will share with them its proposals for the present and above all we hope the civil society will implement that future through small groups and projects; the democratic, creative and open future we wish for us. We hope it will be really new; no totalitarianisms from the State or “party-cracies” of any color that Cuba has already known and suffered. All in all, Civil society should be the new name of democracy in Cuba.
At the end of these considerations which come from our condition of simple Cuban citizens, we wish to stop in order to reafirm a conviction that comes more and more urgent, necesary and decisive:
It’s the Cuban people, that is, each one of Cubans, women or men, however they think, wherever they are, the ones who have to be the protagonists of the changes toward a pluralist democracy in Cuba. And when we say protagonism we are not speaking about messianisms or leaderships or populisms. We speak about the real meaning of that controversial and rich term which comes from the Latin language: “proto-agonae”, that is, “the first in the agony”, as was so well expressed by the Apostle of our independence José Martí, with his word and with his life: the agony for the nation.
We are speaking about the daily participation, real and effective, simple but efficient, which remains and never goes, which denounces for fifteen minutes of each hour but announces, proposes and works for those inclusive changes during the other 45 minutes of each hour in Cuba.
The incipient diversity or duality which can become plurality is not in itself negative or worrying as long as the structural changes are made at the same time creating or reforming the indispensable institutions to channel initiatives, debate things freely and reach agreements in favor of the common good of the Nation.
Liberalization always brings about diversity of options and these bring about disorientation to the ones who have had a closed and only hole to see reality and to live in it. When the window is opened each one can watch different sceneries and landscapes. That is normal. Even the eternal dialectics between reform and counter reform can rise to the surface. All this is even logical after coming out from decades of an “anchor-and-belt” policy. But deep down this is an unmistakable sign that plural life always emerges, even from the most monolithic structural formats. It’s life which has got the last word. It’s the present which does not allow itself to be locked even in the most perfect and good of pasts. It’s the future which does not stop constructing itself, unstoppable and sometimes imperceptible from the vigorous and undecided “today”.
There’s no point in carrying out diplomatic negotiations, not even in the change of the foreign policy of the United States toward Cuba, if the Cuban people does not get out of that disorientation and does not overcome the dialectics of plurality to occupy its place in the Civil society, overcome the civic illiteracy and exercise sovereignty from below, which will make us all protagonists, co-responsible for our own Nation.
Only then each Cuban, woman or man, will have enough right and morality to demand to the international community a respectful support and its solidarity, directly proportional to the civic protagonism of the persons, which means, directly proportional to their daily work, sometimes silent but not less valid. Thus it will become a reality the fact that these conclusions take for granted or essential: it’s the Cuban people the only sovereign of its destiny.
Pinar del Río, July 12th 2008.