THERE IS NO COUNTRY IF THERE ARE NO INSTITUTIONS.
To think about the future of Cuba, to think about it and to arrange it; to arrange it and to start to build it from now all of us together, is an urgency which becomes more and more present and last chance. Everything that is and acts for the foresight of the future is strength for Cuba. Everything that is petrified in the past is weakness and mummifies the present.
That is why we will grant a smaller space to the fair complaint and the necessary denouncing, because we wish to go forward in the vision of the future. This time we wish to invite all Cubans from the only nation, the ones from the Island and the ones from the exile, to meditate about one of the irreplaceable mainstays of democracy: the institutions.
To provide against the future with a greater wisdom, conviction and a less degree of error we should look into the past without being stuck in it. The historic experience teaches us and warns us that there has always been in Cuba a strong tendency to leadership, to authoritarianism, to the politics of chiefs or messianic prophets of the absurd or deceptive or self-willed utopias which mortgage the life, generation after generation, until life is lost in the middle of the failure of the present without even discern the light at the end of the tunnel.
About this aspect of our historic reality and our social psychology, it seems to be unavoidable to educate the conscience and the attitude of each citizen, man or woman, about the need of having a nation with strong, participatory, lasting, transparent, inviolable and effective institutions.
When we speak about the compelling need of democratic institutions, we are not referring to those structures of support to the established power that has a democratic appearance. We are not referring to a supposed democracy inside an only party or inside parties of opponents not legally recognized. We are referring to the institutions that can only find their legitimization in the political pluralism, in democratic methods internationally recognized and in pacific alternation in power.
One nation that doesn’t have the institutions with such characteristics turns into a domain that belongs to one or more chiefs or leaders; it turns into a kidnapped Fatherland by one faction; it turns into a weathercock at the mercy of the wind blowing every moment. The challenge is to sow the conviction that all of us live under the law. Nobody can dynamite the institutions at his own risk. Cuba, that is, all Cubans, with all pacific and ethical differences included, must design that kind of institutions; to choose our representatives in them; to prevent, without concessions, that one part, one party or one coalition of parties gets control of the institutions and manipulates them its own way; periods to renew the institutions must be fixed and the institutions must be strengthened in fixed periods non-modifiable.
All dictatorships, authoritarianisms and totalitarianisms have emerged and emerge today, under visionary leaders who start with the consent of some, go forward by seizing the institutions counting on the credit of the masses and then, being already leaders, they dissolve the most relevant institutions, denature the most uncomfortable ones, domesticate the alien ones and magnify the submitted ones. In the end, all ways lead to the seemingly democratic proposal to change the Constitution of the Country, with the purpose of perpetuating in power, not only disregarding each one of the institutional framework but, besides, with the purpose to find a false legitimization and blowing up the great global framework of the citizen coexistence which are the political institutions.
When this happens, the country starts dangerously approaching to violence and exclusion. If there are some who “jump over” the institutions, others will do the same and that anarchic succession is difficult to stop.
But there is always a place for the question in order to open a door to hope: What can be done to prevent this, to change this, to bring forward a true democratic coexistence?
One of the answers that we consider essential is: to promote the respect, the strengthening and the inviolability of the democratic institutions of the nation.
The institutions are born in a legal framework designed and approved with the participation of all. This gives the democratic institutions the only unquestionable legitimization: the consent of the citizens. It’s the principle of the sacred respect for the agreed structures. Only inside these institutions the democratic game of political pluralism and diversity can be carried on. Only by respecting them, there can be an acceptance of the different ones without turning him into a visceral enemy.
Only inside the rules of institutional coexistence the following phenomena can be hindered: personal ambitions, the absolutist sectarianisms, the economic corruption, the political chieftainship, the cancer of the paralyzing ungovernability, the cultural genocide of one group upon other and the social anomy. Here is, in a few words, the fundamental importance of the democratic institutions. If there are no constitutional structures no nation can progress, no government is legitimate, no citizenship is sovereign.
But the foundational respect for the institutions should be accompanied by the gradual and systematic strengthening of their structures and operation, their dynamics and efficiency. We are not defending immobilizing straitjackets but channels that favour the flow of initiatives. We are not defending mammoth institutions which chase their tails in their own bureaucracy. The fact that they should be strong does not mean they have to be mummies. To strengthen means to fix a legal framework equal for all, to simplify the structures, to make them faster and increase their credibility by their efficiency.
Indeed, there is a directly proportional relationship between the efficiency of the institutions in one country and the confidence citizens have in them. We are living it. If the institutions change frequently on impulses by the leadership, the citizens will not believe in the institutions; they won’t be respected by the citizens and will be disregarded by them. If too frequently the institutions only are useful to control the citizens, to repress the initiatives, to contain freedom, to prevent personal or family progress and are not useful to channel, promote and make the initiatives easier, people won’t believe in the institutions, they will rather reject them. It’s the breeding ground for chaos and anarchy; or for the immobilizing anomy which is the anaemia of citizenship.
If there are no institutions the country does not exist. It dies; or at least, it fades in a marsh of arbitrariness; a country without respectable, reliable institutions, useful to turn to them and solve the problems inside the law; institutions that give certainty and not distress. Institutions, all in all, that guarantee security to persons; that guarantee confidence, options for solutions, high spirits to go forward and progress, desire to live… to live in this country.
What to do? In the first place, the solid foundation on which stable, lasting and competent democratic institutions for the future of Cuba can be built is the civic education of citizens, women and men. There are not institutions without citizens. Institutions exist to serve the citizens because the human person must take priority over the institutions. The citizens are, therefore, the soul and the substance of institutions. Without personal empowerment and without social commitment, the institutions succumb and also the citizen that lies in every person.
The right is the cornerstone of the institutions and nobody can demand his rights if he has civic illiteracy. Human rights and civic education are just like the river and its original source. The respect and promotion of human rights depend more on the exercise of sovereignty on the part of each citizen than on the authoritarian power of one government. It will last a short time or it won’t be able to exert much control if it finds at every turn or in each family, in each neighbourhood, in each institution, a swarm of citizens civically educated, pacific defenders of their freedom and supportive workers for others’ freedom. If people relinquish their responsibility as citizens, on their prostration will fall not only the quiet, systematic and painful violation of human rights but, above all, the whole totalitarian weight of some exclusive institutions for control and repression will fall on their prostration.
In the second place, besides the need of an ethical and civic education from right this moment, it is necessary to start to exercise on a small scale, the respect for the institutions. It’s not only about the institutions at the provincial or national level; it’s about the institutions from the base. In this vast network, the citizens, women or men, that obtain the benefits form the institutions, must play a demanding, dynamic and participatory role.
HOW TO BUILD THE INSTITUTIONALITY FROM ABOVE?
To start with, the family must be a community of persons united by love and life; this is the first school of socialization. This means that there, in the family unit, starts the respect for a small institution whose relations are essentially blood and emotional relations; but some things are trained inside the stability of the home: the personal initiative, the respect for the rights of the other members of the family, the work with other people and the openness to the others. It is true that the modern concept of family cannot be reduced to a formal or rigid institution but it’s also true that things have gone to the other extreme. Family instability, the inexistence of a domestic home, the constant disrespect for the other members of the family, cut in the bud not only the training to live in social institutions but the very experience and the basic education to accept the existence of such institutions and participate in them in a constructive way. If in a country like ours, the family institution–community is almost nostalgia, what will be the destiny of the other civic and political institutions where there isn’t even the benefit of the blood bonds? Will it be possible that a national home exist if there are no domestic homes?
The school is the second actor for socialization and for the learning of institutionality in the civic life. This is because the school is an institution and it is, besides, a favourable environment for institutional education. How could our school teach the respect to the institutions if the school does not respect itself in its ends and its means? How is it possible for the shortest citizens to live and participate in democratic institutions if the school is a mouthpiece and an eloquent example of authoritarianism? How can a civic education for participatory institutionality be guaranteed if the core and the same all story of the Cuban school are the exaltation and the imitation of the leaders? If there is no education in the plurality and the human rights there will be no institutions but new leaders and new exclusions. A school with the pedagogy of Varela, Luz and Martí: liberating, designed to bring about peace, focussed on virtue and love, is a guarantee so that the future of the Nation can be settled on institutions.
The civil society which is the multiform fabric of informal groups, civic and cultural associations, non–governmental organizations, are the next step for an education for democratic institutions. The citizens need to gather, to organize themselves, to have spaces of democratic participation where they can exercise and consolidate, at intermediate level, the habits, attitudes and dynamics inherent to institutional structures. At the same time, this supportive network is a mechanism to demand probity, promptitude and effectiveness from the other institutions. An active and committed civil society is also a guarantee for the respect and the defence of Human Rights in the institutions.
How can the institutions be democratic without the free and responsible fabric of the civil society? How to get to achieve that the officials who work at the institutions may respect their mechanisms, defend the citizens’ human rights to whom they are destined to serve, if they have never had the example of the family; or the liberating and democratic civic education of the school; or the work experience in a participatory and organized space of the civil society? On the other hand, how to get to achieve that the persons who make use of the institutions trust in them if they have never been able to trust either in the members of their families or in the efficiency of the schools, or in the mass organizations which are manipulated and manipulating?
There would seem that the future of Cuba will be of new authoritarian leaderships or sectarian and exclusive partycracies. But we believe in the power of the small experiences that from now try to survive; if we didn’t trust “in the human improvement and the usefulness of virtue”; if we didn’t see, clearly and far, the unavoidable importance of an program to increase public awareness, for education and exercising so that Cubans, women and men may be protagonists of the serious, democratic and stable institutions…
A safe and prosperous future, with opportunities, for the happiness of Cuba depends essentially on the capacity of Cubans to change from a leadership mentality to an institution culture; from dismembered families to families articulated by respect, love and the education for freedom and responsibility; to change from a vertical, authoritarian and depersonalizing school to an education for civic-mindedness and democracy; to change from a civil society which is now a mouthpiece and an instrument to control the citizens, to a network of open, diverse, inclusive and efficient spaces.
All in all, the future of Cuba will be the same old thing if the changes don’t stop being thought and carried out by a few who think they know everything, they can do everything and they will be able to do it only with their group and their methods, mistrusting and disqualifying everyone who does not join their proposals, however democratic they might appear to be.
Cuba needs institutions to control the leaders, to serve the citizens and rebuild the Country. Depending on this premise, our prosperity and happiness, the coexistence and the peace, will be a fact. Or they won’t be.
Pinar del Río, October 10th 2009.