Sunday, February 22, 2015

Americas Summit - Opportunity and Challenge

Americas Summit: Opportunity and Challenge / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya
Posted on February 21, 2015

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 8 February 2105 — One of the most
controversial issues facing both the Cuban government and
Cuban independent civil society is one stemming from President Barack
Obama's December 17th speech when he stated: "Next April, we will be
ready for Cuba to join the other nations in the hemisphere at the
Americas Summit, but we will insist that Cuban civil society joins us so
that it will not only be the leaders, but the citizens who will shape
our future."

Immediately after, Obama added: "And I urge all my colleagues and
leaders to give meaning to the commitment to democracy and human rights,
which is the essence of the Inter-American Charter. Let's leave behind
the legacy of colonization and communism and the tyranny of drug
cartels, dictators and electoral farces."

After the first moments of surprise and with each other's positions set
out on the table about the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations
between Cuba and the US, most Cubans are sure that the regime is not
prepared to face, in a satisfactorily manner, an honest debate on
democracy and human rights, and much less is willing to compromise on
its stubborn refusal to recognize areas of rights which would inevitably
lead to the end of its power.

But, with the same certainty and for the sake of honesty, we must
recognize that we still have major obstacles to overcome in the
independent civil society, starting with the one that will be, without a
doubt, an essential premise: to agree on our consensus, leaving aside
our differences – derived from political partisanships, ideologies,
autocratic individuals and other personal agendas — that have divided us
and prevented further progress over decades.

"In politics, time is a fundamental asset we Cubans tend not to figure
into our calculations, being accustomed as we are to half a century
of stagnation."

To leave behind political adolescence and suddenly attain adulthood to
achieve a common front that amplifies the democratic demands of Cubans
which several generations have been struggling for under difficult
conditions is not impossible, as evidenced by debate and consensus
forums in the past two years. However, achieving a single agenda capable
of meeting the essential requirements of all sectors of the civil
society will not be easy, particularly for those who are more reluctant
to dialogue and have opted instead for a confrontational stance.

It may seem premature to put on the table an issue that depends, in the
first place, on the combination and coordination of many as yet unknown
issues. But in politics, time is a fundamental asset we Cubans tend not
to figure into our calculations, being accustomed as we are to half a
century of stagnation.

Obviously, President Obama's willingness to support civil society does
not imply — or at least it should not imply — the government's direct
intervention in financing or selecting the actors who participate in the
hemispheric conclave. Presumably, taking as a sign his own statements
when he recognized that Cuban issues belong first of all to
Cubans, his government's commitment should be to support the proposals
we make, and should include those who do not live in Cuba but who are
part of the nation's heartbeat.

In that case, it would be advisable to start a process of discussion and
consultation now with participants in the independent civil society
groups and leaders of opinion, journalists, activists of all existing
projects, and those individuals or organizations — whether from the
opposition or any civic venue — who may have ideas to contribute to the

"It is time to show that we are partners in the dialogues that are
sketching all our destinies."

We should not be seeking unanimity, but trying to consolidate unity in
those essential points we agree on, and readying our proposals, both in
a plausible memo to present at the Americas Summit and in
a representation that could encompass, more inclusively and justly, the
whole range of organizations and trends of the independent civil
society. At the same time, we must give up our presumptions and embrace
modesty for the common good.

Unfortunately, we have witnessed the persistence of intolerant positions
in recent events, verbal violence and contempt for those ideas different
to our own, something that is inherent to a society that has been, for a
long time, tense and controlled by a regime that has sown
totalitarianism and intimidation as valid methods to prevail, which a
handful of democrats seem to want to perpetuate.

These actions, which have been carried out against the public image of a
dissidence characterized mainly by its posture of peaceful struggle and
respect for differing views, should be banished from the discussions if
we wish to strengthen and achieve standing and recognition inside and
outside Cuba. It is time to show that we are partners in the dialogues
that are sketching all our destinies.

In short, what is truly important is, after all, to be prepared for the
occasion that is politically being offered to us. It is a matter of
commitment, not a easy ride, and whoever will end up representing us in
this or any other international forum should feel the great historical
responsibility they assume, and be worthy of the trust of all those who
have committed their forces and pinned their hopes on the future of
democracy in Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Americas Summit: Opportunity and Challenge / 14ymedio, Miriam
Celaya | Translating Cuba -

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