Losing Fear To Get Freedom / 14ymedio, Rolando Gallardo
14ymedio, Rolando Gallardo, Quito, 10 December 2016 — On the 58th
anniversary of the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista, the seizure of power
by Fidel Castro and the disappearance of the national hope of a return
to the constitutional values of 1940, the people of Cuba, their
emigration and the "historic exile" continue to ask the same rhetorical
question: When will we be free?
Before the Obama administration's rapprochement, the island's regime
raised the alarms of the possible perpetuation of the current state of
affairs. Opposition groups have concentrated their intellectual efforts
on delegitimizing the actions of the United States government and few
have concerned themselves with analyzing the new opportunities for
action that it presents. They demand that Washington return to the
politics of confrontation of the last 50 years, a return to a Cold War
based on ideological footholds or real threats to the stability of the
United States that no longer exist. Times have changed, the world is not
the same, this is a fact.
Although US President Barack Obama broke the taboo by stepping foot in
Havana and shaking General Raul Castro's hand, and despite the ongoing
conversations, the situation in Cuban continues more or less the same.
The defenders of the regime point to the deep popular roots of the
"Revolution"; the defenders of Obama's policies blame the opposition's
inability to articulate a plan to destabilize the regime or to win
popular support; the detractors of the US administration, coincidentally
the traditional opposition the Cuban regime, both on the same side but
for opposite reasons, argue that rapprochement is useless. For
officialdom it is a maneuver to hide mixed objectives, for the regime's
opponents it is a maneuver to strengthen the regime and betray
democratic aspirations, etc.
But what are the real reasons that social unrest does not happen in Cuba?
In the current Cuban conflict four elements are involved. We must assume
that there are four important figures, three national and one
external. The national figures are the government and its repressive
structures ("mass organization" in the official jargon), opposition
groups inside and outside the country and, most importantly, the
ordinary people (workers, students, housewives, technicians, doctors
etc.), mostly discontented but with high levels of political apathy. The
external element is the US government and its policies toward the island.
Where is the project?
The traditional, dispersed and divided opposition base their positions
on the flagrant violations of human rights. The main flag of dozens of
opposition groups is the establishment of democracy and free elections,
a cause undoubtedly just but one that does not offer a intelligible plan
to the Cuban masses who want a change in their pocketbooks and in their
kitchens. The objectives of the struggle seem futile to a needy majority
that depends on the ration book and the tiny wages, the lowest salaries
in the Western hemisphere. The opposition discourse forgets to speak out
about the pressing needs of the population. What does the ordinary Cuban
want to hear? Do they want to hear about democracy? Are the interests of
the opposition the same as those of the common people?
The opposition leadership is a burning issue. Some avoid talking about
it so that they are not accused of "pandering to the regime" and end up
being called "G2 agents," that is in the pocket of State Security. New
times need ethical leadership, a leadership immune to the caudillos, one
that can articulate the ideas and diverse projects in the current
collage of opposition factions.
We have a common rosary of ex-prisoners turned into patriotic opponents,
people who love to get checks and their phones recharged, opposition
caricatures who don't act if the interests of their fiefdom or their
personal opinions are not affected. A leadership that doesn't skimp on
launching insults to devalue their adversaries, in the seeking of
remittances from abroad. A kind of political flip-floppers that end up
smearing the work of ethically firm and committed opponents. One wonders
which they benefit more, the democratic cause, or the regime's
discourse. They should aspire to a prepared leadership, trained in
theory and practice. Leaders, not supervisors, are what the cause needs.
The Gene Sharp Academy has become famous among opponents. It is common
to hear the term as if it were a hidden card, a weapon per se. Civil
disobedience is a process that starts from a common idea, a shared
desire by the majority who attempt to act together from the first moment
in the simple refusal to be a part of what they don't agree with
The mistake is to call the masses to participate in marches and strikes
when they have not first been called to abandon the repressive
structures of the regime. It is joining together in civil disobedience
when fear is lost and this is discovered when realizing there are many
who are willing to be punished.
A simple act of civil disobedience is putting a ribbon on the door or a
sticker in the window. It is not about a march like that of September
1st in Venezuela if people haven't already identified with the
"The suspicion syndrome"
The fear of being marked by the regime is one of the reasons for
political apathy. The vast majority of Cubans talk quietly at home,
criticizing the barbarity and arbitrariness of the government. People
avoid talking about it more at work saying: "You don't know who's
who." The fear of being put on the blacklist makes people prefer to
remain outside any political debate and simply repeat the regime's
propaganda or join its repressive organizations (mass organizations) "so
as not to stand out." Opportunism and amorality have become an instinct
End of the charismatic government
Fidel Castro met his end. The charismatic leader, bearer of all truth,
was a decrepit old man. Although some, glued to the criticism of his
image and legacy, still blame him for everything as if he still ruled,
the reality is that nature, the only effective opponent of the regime,
has removed Fidel Castro.
Fidel's hypnotic personality was the cornerstone of the Cuban
government. The interfamily transfer of power left a vacuum that we
ignore. Raul Castro, the elderly general, is a person with little
facility with words, jovial among his people but lacking charisma,
incoherent, a faint shadow of what was the sex-symbol image of the
Commander in Chief in his younger days.
Obama's visit unveiled a Raul Castro without arguments, disoriented, his
voice shrill and disagreeable, reflecting what was left of the "historic
leadership of the Revolution." The dictatorship has lost its charisma
and its essence becomes more evident.
Possibility of dialog
The Cuban opposition currently does not have the power or the popular
support to force a dialog with the government. Some passionate but
hardly pragmatic leaders refuse, as an exercise in bravado, to accept a
possible future dialog with the regime. Dialog is desirable, it can be a
way to negotiate agreements and to obtain a share of power when the
conditions for it are created. But, being realists, the opposition in
Cuba had done very little to obtain the elements of pressure.
Obama policy and "normalization"
"Normalization" took the opposition by surprise. Something cooking
behind the scenes until we all got a whiff of it. President Obama,
ending his term in office, launched an adventure toward an uncertain
future. Like it or not there are now fluid diplomatic relations between
both countries. The screws have been loosened on the restrictions of the
embargo-blockade, a policy that has been voted against for two decades
by the majority of the countries that make up the United Nations General
Assembly. Keeping it was illogical and trying this new path is the only
The disappearance of tensions and the eventual end of the embargo will
put an end to the concept of the imperialist enemy and mark the end of
political ideological work. The regime is left without the excuse of
considering itself the hero of the "plaza under siege." The blame cannot
eternally fall on the United States: there are no reasons for the
scarcities, the corruption, the persecution of entrepreneurs, the
imposed lack of connection to the internet, the lack of freedom of
expression and the violations of human rights. Will the opposition adapt
to the new rules of the game and abandon its tantrums?
A social explosion will not occur in Cuba as long as a separation of
immediate interests between the population and the opposition
persists. People must lose their fear and become aware that most Cubans
want an immediate change in relations with the state. An ethical renewal
of the opposition is essential, as is the meeting at an intermediate
point that permits unifying the idea of change for Cuba on the basis of
a viable project to undermine the foundations of a regime that has lost
its charismatic leader. Articulating a project for a future Republic
that does not start from antiquated rhetoric about obsolete economic
projects and licenses to kill.
A social explosion will come only when the majority of the population
identifies the single culprit responsible for their ills, for which the
distractions and excuses must disappear. We must put an end to the idea
of the "imperialist enemy." It requires a committed opposition that
takes advantage of the new conditions and doesn't lend itself to the
improbable activities of those who have settled into a way of life
guaranteed by dissent.
The freedom of Cuba does not depend on the United States, it depends on
our own efforts. As long as we don't understand our own responsibility,
we will not achieve the changes we aspire to.
Source: Losing Fear To Get Freedom / 14ymedio, Rolando Gallardo –
Translating Cuba -