Something is moving in Cuba. Winds of structural changes have started to blow. Though, as it shows, this is only the beginning of a new stage in our history. This period will be better if we try to carry it out as well as possible from the start because if we do so, mistakes can be prevented and the sinuosity inherent to change can be diminished. It seems that the Cuban people, with undoubtful patience and historic wisdom, offers the government another opportunity of time requested once more through five decades. We wish the new staff of the State speeded up and deepened the fundamental changes and went deep into them without improvisations. Substantial changes are the only responsible way out that justifies the time that has been granted and invested.
Many of us are very worried about the nature of the changes: if they are cosmetic or really structural. Others are very concerned about the meaning of the changes, where the changes will lead us, if they will be a step forward or a step backward to the past which is impossible. Others are concerned about the strategies and speed of the changes: how “to prepare” the people psychologically and politically, maintaining a tension between graduality and urgency.
Some persons don’t believe in the changes if the same faces remain; and there are also the ones who still cling to inmovilism or the ones adjusted or the ones who are used to the empty shriek of combat which is a fasting of echo in the real life with no resonance in the vast majority of Cubans who are about to be fed up with the aggresive and decadent ways of saying, sitting at a table even shared by more calmed voices. Such ways of saying only show a deep weakness of reasons that cannot be concealed. So different to other ways of saying: serene, open and above all, short. Exasperation doesn’t help anyone. And those ways of saying and attitudes are not the ones that Cuba needs.
We believe that Cuba needs much serenity now. Much meditation and study and patience together with the wisdom which knows that in times of changes any involuntary mistake could suddenly turn into a cause of unuseful violence. Exessive secrecy, mystery and decisions behind the people’s back do not help either. A lot of transparency is needed, a greater consistency between words and action and above all, it’s necessary to respond directly and quickly to the the growing expectations of Cubans.
That is why we wish to focus our attention on one of the most forgotten aspects of all changes. It’s certain that nature, meaning, strategy, ways of saying, quickness and serenity are essential but all of these aspects and a every real transformation depend on one element which is often obviated or left out: the protagonists of the changes.
A too fast and suspiciously obvious answer to the question: “Who will be the protagonists of the change?” comes to the minds of the most shrewd ones: the government. We often hear the ancient popular saying: Changes, very well, eveyone knows that they are necessary and urgent but... who bells the cat?
There are, at least, two possible attitudes or answers to the former popular expression: The atttitude which expects others to take the risk, which expects others to be able to take action. Such attitude paralizes us. That is the trick of the proverb. And a second way of giving a possitive answer to the question “who?” is the way offered by Father Félix Varela, “the first man who tought us how to think” with our own brains:
“It is necessary that the valuable men... the real patriots persuade themselves that now, more than ever they are obligated to be useful to the Fatherland, with the lack of interest of the honest man, but with all the strength and the energy of a patriot... to prevent on time the wicked and mediocre persons take the place of the best Children of the country because of their indiference”... “What easy resourses fear has! If the house of a friend is burning, would it be an act of prudence and friendship not to awake him while he is sleeping?... And the ones who are always saying: who bells the cat”? Is it necessary to stick it out? It is enough to elaborate an opinion... and everybody realizes that there is an agreement among all and then... Once bitten twice shy!” (El Habanero).
To elaborate a “state of opinion” is a way of being a part of the changes and this is something that everybody can do. It’s an effective method. If we express and share our opinions, in a free, respectful and serene way, we can bell the cat all of us, that is, we can be part of the transformations that have started, as ordinary citizens. This is the sovereignty from below. This is the first answer to “who” the protagonists of the change are going to be: the citizens, all of them. Indiference is the worst enemy in this hour.
We should say even more: We, the people, all of us are the most numerous and effective pacific opposition, even if we are not aware of this role or its importance and effectiveness. But we are. And the government knows it very well. As a matter of fact, what is happening in Cuba and what’s going to happen, as in any other place in the world, has happened and is going to happen as an answer to the pressure of the daily needs of the people which cannot be postponed. That is the most effective and persevering pacific opposition. It’s the greatest force for change and can’t be repressed increasingly and forever without calling the attention, in a strong way, of the world which today, more than ever has got it’s eyes on us. It is a pressing and unavoidable reality. The very Cuban government knows it. If not, what are the “opinion of the people” surveys for? What are the “round tables” and the “battle of ideas” for? Why the urgent wish that the image of Cuba be of total normality, order and unity-uniformity? Disorder, which nobody wants, is not necessarily the only way the tormented people has to express itself.
It can be said that it is for education; it can be said that it is for avoiding confusion, for preparing us psicologically and politically. Good. It could be. But that is not enough because all of it vanishes the next morning when we face the agony of the daily struggle. That is the best barometer of the social pressure: The voice of the people buried or on the streets, and this is happening every day louder and more often. Something that cannot be indefinitely endured: the needs, the hardship. Something that is growing and will constantly grow until real changes are performed. Deep, structural, not cosmetic changes. The needs do not depend on an ideology or a party. The needs have taken us to this crucial moment and they will continue pushing.
Let’s look around: university students who discuss things with a leader applaud a young man from Las Tunas, keep vigils asking for autonomy and do demands to the Deans and leaders; workers who do not earn the proper salaries in the very State corporations; artists who escape or stay escaped, farmers who do not produce food because they don’t receive the proper pay; houswives whose “battle of ideas” is fought in their kitchens every day in order to figure out how to make ends meet; the defenseless old men and the helpless ill persons that are a crowd in the rickety corridors of hospitals that are being eternally repaired... the force and the pressure of survival: major and gratest opponents to any public administration. And that is not a faction. Not mercenaries. Not traitors. It’s the Fatherland.
But though the opinion and the pressure of citizens are the major performers, this is not enough. Part of this Fatherland which belongs to all, part of this nation which is all of us, are the rest of the “legs” of the national “table”: the government, the political opposition and the rest of the civil society organized in informal groups; social or cultural associations; religious institutions and others. These three protagonists complete the cast of this performance which is: change. These actors are a part of the Fatherland too.
Then we would have to stop and make sure that some of the premises for change are clear, accepted and consistently assumed. We suggest six of them:
1- No pacific change is done without the former government. We have to rely on it and it must give up what corresponds in order to receive respect and prevent social exacerbations. Time is not unlimited and it is a factor for credibility.
2- No government gives up, not even what corresponds, without the pressure of the opposition and the civil society and the opposition of the citizenship in the direction established by necessity. Facing the new signs of time, what new answers and initiatives are offered by the opposition and the civil society?
3- No opposition force can exercise an effective pressure if the primary needs of the people are not taken into account before its party programs. To listen to the vox populi, to help its awareness and to act as its catalyst. And also, adjust the programs to such soveriegn vox populi.
4- Every government gives up insofar as the civic pressure grows. They are directly proporcional. Nobody should expect a new step if he does not make an effort to demand it, but in a pacific way. Because violence paralizes us and aborts any reform. We don’t understand pressure as blackmail but as demanding and responsible participation of citizens and a sign of civic maturity and political normality. A country without pressure is a country without blood pressure. Not to give up to legitimate pressure exerted by the ones who are supposed to give pulse to the social body can be a sign of “rigor mortis”, a sign of fatal rigidity. To give up to sane pressure based on the natural Right is a sign of the vitality of a system, not a sign of weakness.
5- Every change and transition is a process of stages. If we want it to be pacific, it has to be gradual. And if it is gradual we must believe in the small steps and not discredit them before their effectiveness and veracity are validated. We all are to validate them by acting consistently, as if they were true, until the contrary is shown. This is the only way for us to obtain moral authority. To buck, to make steps forward and steps backwards and some of them to the sides, is inherent to every pacific transition. No transformation has been done straightly. That is a myth which we must unfold in order to heal our discouragement.
6- The role of the international community: No people can live isolated from the present world, global and supportive, interdependent and neighbouring. Sovereignty should not be abandoned because it is essential to citizens and peoples, but this sovereignty is not strengthened by stubbornness and an outdated oppresive nationalism. All exiles in History have shown that living together with other nationalities and cultures does not weaken but strengthens identity and sovereignty. Every open and respectful requests from the international community are good. To collate with lucidity and responsiblity, our ways of political, economic and social coexistence according to the standards of the present world is the best way of being really sovereign and strengthening the identity as a people. He who gets stubborn and thinks that the rest of the world is wrong cannot acknowledge his identity because he does not have means to compare, or mirrors to recognize himself or encouragement to grow as a people. Being stubborn is like being blind: nothing new or better is given to light.
There has to be a differentiation between the blackmail done by hegemony and the pressure based on the international right. The whole world cannot be wrong all the time and only one nation in the most absolute justice. That does not exist anywhere. In today’s world the international relations are based on two pillars: the first and the main one is the respect for the human rights expressed in United Nations Agreements which Cuba has promised to sign during the first three-month period of this year. And the second one: the regional and world interdependence and integration. To demand these two ethical premises cannot be seen as blackmail or fake prressure but as a duty and a right of peoples in a mutual supportive joint responsibility.
A new stage is open in Cuba. For the whole Fatherland this is a time of opportunities. The protagonists of the change are as important and decisive as its nature, direction and methods. Moreover, there will be a flaw and a mutilation in the future of the Nation if one of the protagonists is missing in the process of transition . Even the quality and the viability, the depth and the democracy of a process of changes should be measured by the diversity and the prominence of the four doers of real and authentic lasting reforms: The State, the opposition, the civil society and the conscious and empowered citizenship. All of them open to the international community.
There is no full and deep change without the participation of all. It should not be said that no one is listening in Cuba. It should not be said that there is nobody home willing to open the door to the future.
Here are some tools to awaken, open, participate and evaluate, as Cuban citizens, the process which everybody knows is already approaching in Cuba.
Pinar del Río, 25th february 2008.
155th anniversary of Father Félix Varela’s death.