Cuba is going through one of the tensest moments of its recent history; without economy, without a viable political project on the part of the ones who hold power and with a society which is increasingly discouraged. It’s not an apocalyptic perspective but reality. It’s the new “special period” though it has not been officially called that way. There is a difference with the crisis of the 90’s. In that crisis there was a lot of money in national currency circulating and almost nothing to buy. Now there is no money and nothing to buy. In that crisis there were measures to maneuver and the legalization of another currency. Now there is nothing of that. Those who doubt it may go to the streets; may come to Cuba; may talk to all the sectors and not to some of them.
The mass media play their role in different ways, of course, in a plural world. The independent journalists and bloggers generate and confirm news from the inside of Cuba with veracity and immediacy never seen before. More and more the foreign correspondents and the international press agencies quote the independent journalists and bloggers because they are close to the news protagonists and to the real life in Cuba. That is the verifiable truth if we had direct access to the social mass media. It has been an almost imperceptible evolution. It’s an unstoppable and reliable evolution. In that world competence, veracity and immediacy transcend all the rest. The journalists and bloggers have won this acknowledgement. It’s a sign of real change.
It’s due to this new phenomenon that it becomes very difficult to manipulate the public opinion because there are very diverse Cuban voices that appear immediately and contribute other approaches. It’s not about who is right or who has got the truth. It’s about the fact that the persons who have access to this diversity of information can build their own opinions and have the necessary to elaborate their own judgment. That is what freedom of expression is for. It’s diverse and opposite to the exclusiveness of the sources and to the exclusion of the voices.
In this time Cuba is torn again between anguish and hope; the same as more than half a century ago. The only thing new is the exhaustion of the projects, the tiredness of the same old story and the irrepressible need for change which turns into a dangerous urgency and we cannot and should not play with it. One thing is the necessary gradualism that every process needs and another thing, very different, is to maneuver in order to save time and not make any changes, even more when there are human lives at stake. It’s ethically unacceptable. It’s a crime.
So the only honourable and ethical way out is the pacific dialogue and the negotiation with results. However, for a real dialogue and a credible and viable negotiation some premises must be fulfilled; these premises are essential according to our opinion:
1. The dialogue should be an attitude and a method. That is, it should have a dosage of good will and another dosage of technical requirements. Not only good will because it would be ingenuousness. Not only negotiation techniques because it could hide the possible bad will.
2. When the dialogue occurs in the political environment it has the inherent characteristics of such environment and these characteristics cannot be masked by other dimensions even if they are very respectable. In politics, things cannot be mixed because it creates confusion of ends and roles.
3. Every dialogue must have as absolute priority, as centre, as object and end the defence and protection of the human person and his rights and duties. All the human rights for all. The human rights are indivisible as freedom is. Freedom and human rights cannot be negotiated as if they were coins.
4. There is a difference between dialogue and negotiation: the dialogue is meant to communicate, to be informed in a direct way, to explain reasons, to express diverse opinions, to present the acceptable and the unacceptable. On the other hand, negotiation is the other dimension of dialogue: its essence is to look for results. It has to have visible results that can be assessed and that may be acceptable for all parties.
5. Dialogue and negotiation can only be implemented between valid interlocutors. This means that if one party does not recognize the other there is no complete dialogue or negotiation. To call it that way is a deceitful way to maneuver with the time, the credibility and the patience of persons and peoples. If one of the parties offends or discredits or disqualifies the other party there cannot be normal dialogue or negotiation. It could be concession or indulgence or dilatory maneuver but not dialogue. The essence of dialogue and negotiation is the explicit acknowledgement of the interlocutor or interlocutors; and sit face to face; with respect, and if it is possible starting with the negotiation of an agenda and using a mediator or facilitator.
6. Mediation is a service; it’s a technical service to facilitate the atmosphere of respect and the fluency of the conversations and to assure that what is said and done is exactly what was negotiated. That service of mediation should be granted to both interlocutors in an equal, impartial way, there should be transparency between them and discretion should be guaranteed outside the environment of negotiations. The mediation means facilitation of the dialogue between the parties and there shouldn’t be partiality. The mediation should be accepted by both parties as reliable, competent and attainable in an equal way for both interlocutors.
7. The mediation must respect and promote the voice of each interlocutor. The mediation should promote the word of each of them and there should be no influence; the mediation must open channels for all the voices that participate in the dialogue, without exclusions and with their consent. This is a great service on the part of the mediation.
8. For a dialogue or negotiation to be viable each one should carry out all things and only what corresponds to his role and he should not be confused with the roles of the other protagonists of the dialogue. Those roles are equally necessary and different: interlocutor, mediator and speakers from both sides. The facilitator and mediator does not have anything different to say to the public opinion but to confirm the process and what each interlocutor or the speaker communicates from his position, respecting his autonomy, his own voice and his capacity for communicating what he believes convenient.
9. Every dialogue and negotiation is a process and it means that it has to be carried out step by step, gradually, consolidating and evaluating each concrete fact and this is the only way for the negotiation to have credibility and continuity. In every dialogue and negotiation there is a give-and take. Each interlocutor lays his cards on the table of dialogue, that is, the things that accredit him to be a part of the negotiation. Nobody ceases the cards of his position without receiving other cards with similar magnitude from the other part. So parties must give in but not make concessions. In an environment of negotiation the parties must give but receive as well. They also must stop and interrupt publicly the negotiation though not the dialogue when they don’t attain what they are negotiating. If one party is to stop the negotiation it must communicate it firmly and clearly to the valid interlocutor.
10. The language used in the dialogue is not the least important: in order to achieve a dialogue and a negotiation attacks, disqualifications, epithets and offences must disappear. If the parties don’t attack with their language it does not mean that the language is being hypocrite, it’s just being respectful and this does not mean that concessions are done; it means the acknowledgement of the inherent dignity that every human person has even the person that deserves a punishment because of his behaviour. The proper trial to a defendant is an unmistakeable proof of that inalienable respect. He who lies in an obvious thing or discredits persons or groups only discredits himself and disqualifies himself as a valid interlocutor. The language used is the first letter of introduction and a certificate for every credible dialogue. It’s its guarantee certificate.
The only guarantee and certification for a dialogue to be a real negotiation is the visible, measurable and dynamic progress of that process, without reverse. The true dialogue is not exclusive. It only should exclude violence and the very exclusion. Dialogue is undoubtedly the only ethical method of our time. This seems to be clear even among persons that think and act in a diametrical different way. Negotiation is, at present, the proper process of a pacific and pluralist cohabitation.
A scenario of an atypical negotiation has happened in Cuba. It’s about the fact that the government does not want to explicitly acknowledge the members of the civil society yet who have built this new scenario through an internal qualitative change and the almost unanimous international support to their internal move. This fact united to the serious economical, political and social crisis that Cuba is undergoing has pressured the government to negotiate given some catalytic events: Zapata’s death, the activities of the Ladies in White and Fariñas’ going on strike together with many other initiatives by the civil society.
Whereas the acknowledgement of the valid interlocutors is attained the Church has the vocation of facilitating the communication. However, from now on, the roles of an authentic negotiation must be normalized:
The acknowledgement of the independent civil society, including the political opposition as the valid interlocutors of the process of negotiation; impartial mediation of the Church and the continuation of the process with definite results that can be assessed such as the release of the political prisoners or prisoners of conscience. This is just the first step.
It seems to be an invalid redundancy to clear up that the dialogue should be critic and exigent. The dialogue that is not critic, that is, the dialogue that does not exercise the criterion and does not discern respectfully each step and proposal is not a dialogue but indulgence or concession or even connivance. The negotiation that is not exigent is indulgence or complicity. Then the ones who accept and propose the dialogue and the negotiation should not exclude the interlocutors if they are critic or the proposals if they are exigent. He who closes the door to inclusion opens another door to violence and exclusion.
The dialogue and the negotiation should be coherent. A dialogue that does not include one of the parties involved is not credible. That is ethically unacceptable. If we have a dialogue with the distant neighbours and don’t have a dialogue with the close neighbours and the ones at home we lose credibility. This involves all of us without exception. There shouldn’t be either a dialogue if silence is imposed on one voice or several voices of one party and the other voices are amplified.
If a regional or international community or a country commits itself to the dialogue with one nation it should not exclude any of the interlocutors. It should not either state publicly and officially that it will not meet one of the interlocutors because it wants to be received by the other party. That lack of coherence and acknowledgement of the valid interlocutors is not only regrettable but it’s a discredit and it also causes a reduction in the possibilities for the ones who do the things hoping to start a dialogue. The proof is that the interlocutors who are firmly coherent, which does not mean that they are fundamentalist or that they want confrontation, attain much more when they meet all parties than the ones who submit themselves in advance to exclusive conditions coming from one of the negotiating parties.
We believe in the dialogue, in the negotiation and in the gradualism of the processes. We believe that the human quality exists in Cuba and there is also the need and the convenience of a dialogue and a serious, credible and efficient negotiation. We commit ourselves to that. We also believe that we have amongst we Cubans virtuous, pacific, perseverant, brave and flexible persons and groups that can be valid interlocutors. We believe that we also have in Cuba institutions with a great prestige and credibility to serve as mediators and facilitators. And we also believe that each one of these interlocutors has his voice and means to let them to be listened to and to communicate themselves with the world.
If Cuba, Cubans, women and men have all this then what is left to attain a pacific and authentic transition through dialogue? Maybe some more good will, a great dosage of political will, acknowledgement of the interlocutors, much more respect and inclusion of all parties, a good antidote for exasperation and violence and above all, much coherence and perseverance.
The results will validate this confidence.
Pinar del Río, June 29th 2010