Friday, February 26, 2016

The Wrong Interlocutor

The Wrong Interlocutor / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya
Posted on February 25, 2016

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 11 February 2016 — More often than
reason dictates – since the announcement of the restoration of relations
between the governments of Cuba and the United States – statements,
newspaper articles and even open letters have appeared taking to task
president Barack Obama for a decision that some consider a political
mistake, an excessive concession to the longest dictatorship in this
hemisphere or, at best, naïve. There have even been those who have gone
so far as to accuse the American president of orchestrating "a betrayal
of democratic Cubans," even if unaccompanied by arguments to support
such an affirmation.

Without wishing to discuss the sovereign rights of each person to say
what their own intellect dictates, it is noteworthy that the angriest
complaints rest on questions that are not attributes exclusive to the
president of the United States. Let's take, for example, the issue of
the relations themselves. Has this political rapprochement been more
beneficial to the Cuban government, perhaps, than the acceptance and
recognition it has had from other democratic governments? That is,
countries such as Germany, Great Britain, France and Spain, among
others, that have maintained relations with the Cuban dictator for
years, and yet to date their governments have not received so many
complaints on the part of those who indict president Obama for the same

Another interesting issue is the wave of anxiety over the lifting of
restrictions on Americans' visits to the island, and trading between US
producers and Cuban companies, when for decades we have received
millions of European and Canadian visitors and have traded with
businesses in numerous democratic companies without, so far, raising so
many hackles.

In fact, foreign investors have been active on the island since the
nineties – among them the well-known entrepreneurs from our stepmother
country, Spain, which have exploited native labor ad nauseam in flagrant
violation of the laws of international entities that defend the rights
of workers – and have offered the Cuban government greater profits than
all the relaxations of the embargo pushed by the US administration.

I wonder why Cubans' democratic longings have never been directed toward
the politicians and businessmen of that nation, culturally and
historically related to the island, and why it has never offered
vertical and openly declared – or at least convincing – support for the
struggle for democracy on the island.

Is the critical approach of Barack Obama to the Castro dictatorship
morally more reprehensible than the flirting of Madrid's Moncloa Palace
with the Palace of the Revolution, or than the entertainment received by
the general-president Castro II during his recent stay in France, cradle
of modern democracy?

Was it not the Holy Father himself, the humble Francis, who gave major
honors to the island satrapy by favoring the ex-president Castro I with
a personal visit, while deliberately ignoring the repression of the
dissidents, avoiding a meeting with representatives of civil society,
and conveniently omitting any criticism of the deplorable state of human
rights in Cuba?

However, with a persistence worthy of better causes, the critics of the
current US administration maintain a moral blockade against Barack
Obama, as if he should take responsibility for the history and destiny
of a people that has been sufficiency irresponsible as to allow itself
the sad eccentricity of supporting the longest dictatorship in memory in
the Western world.

Recently in this newspaper, a letter was published where a Cuban
directed four personal questions to President Obama (Four Questions For
You, President Obama). These four questions summarize approximately the
same complaints and demands of a great number of the resentful, who do
not understand why the president of our northern neighbor "has taken no
[effective] actions" to force the Cuban dictatorship to respect the
democratic rights of Cubans, or why he has not done enough to guarantee
the quality of life of the islanders since 17 December 2014, as if some
of these issues were priorities or key issues for the president of a
foreign country and not matters that we Cubans are capable of resolving

Paradoxically, this young Cuban who says he "does not want to emigrate
and dreams of a free, independent and democratic Cuba" has clearly
subordinated Cuba's national sovereignty to the will and decisions of
that foreign government. Indeed, some patriots show themselves to be so
passionately naive that one doesn't know whether to give them a round of
applause or burst into tears.

But this is how things are in these parts. There are also others
abstractly flying an exacerbated civicism that falters, however, when
they try to apply it to daily life. I wonder if this young man and so
many other "demanding" Cubans here – in particular those who attend the
meetings to nominate candidates or the so-called "Accountability
Assemblies" – have had the courage to ask their representative what he
or she is going to do to guarantee the human rights, freedom and
prosperity of (at least) their neighbors and the community.

And taking the matter to a more individual level, how many of them ask
themselves what they are doing to change the state of affairs in Cuba.

Personally, I have no demands of President Barack Obama nor to any
specific foreign government. Most likely if I were in his shoes I would
do the same: seek to safeguard the interests of my nation and my
compatriots, as well as the safety of my loved ones. It is what I aspire
to in a future Cuban president, when we live in a democracy. I suppose
that Mr. Obama has every right from his own discernment to think: If
Cubans in great enthusiasm applauded the installation of a dictatorship
from before I was born, if they have chosen to escape it or to tolerate
its excesses ad infinitum, who am I to assume the role of redeemer?

It seems cynical, and may be so, but if you look at it coldly, it's
reality. The Cuban dictatorship has done exactly what we have allowed it
to do. And it will remain on the throne of power as long as it wants,
not only for its own absolute power but because Cubans consent. For an
autocracy to succumb there doesn't have to be an assault on barracks or
the unleashing of a war; it is enough to stop obeying it.

Until that happens, we can bombard Barack Obama or the next occupant of
the White House with any questions we like; the truth is that the real
answer is among ourselves.

Source: The Wrong Interlocutor / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya | Translating
Cuba -

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