Rejecting Fidelism and Empowering Citizens / Diario de Cuba, Dimas
Posted on February 4, 2015
Looking back on the history of the conflict, Cuba and the United States
tried to impose their political philosophies through confrontation only
to have them run aground on the negotiating table. They opted for war as
a continuation of politics in order to return to politics as a
substitute for war. The presidents of both countries have now announced
their willingness to normalize relations, which have been suspended
The encouraging news has generated a variety of opinions ranging from
those who believe that the problem has been solved to those who believe
that nothing in Cuba will change. Some believe that changes are already
taking place while others question the intentions of the Cuban
government and America’s Republican legislators. Some — I being one of
them — think the resumption of relations will be beneficial, albeit
difficult and prolonged, for Cuban democratization. This optimism is
based on six considerations.
1. In his speech the U.S. president distanced himself from previous
demands that Cuba democratize before the embargo is lifted. Instead, he
proposed a series of measures that would encourage the empowerment of
citizens and serve as a precursor for a discussion in Congress on
repealing the law. This shift means there is no more “enemy” to fight
and no need to “circle the wagons.” On the Cuban side, there was a
tenant of Fidelism, which held that Cuba had already changed in 1959 so
there was no need for further change. This has given way to the Raulist
viewpoint, which is inclined to see some things change.
2. The shift by the United States is a response to the failure of a
policy whose goal was to promote change in Cuba as well as to the
regional and international self-isolation that resulted from the policy.
Cuba’s shift, though presented as a victory, reveals a failure of
economic leadership, meager results from efforts at reform, mass exodus,
widespread corruption and growing dissatisfaction. It occurs at a time
when the fragility of Venezuelan oil subsidies is a topic of discussion
and no new financial savior has appeared on the horizon.
3. The series of measures by the White House includes an increase in
authorized travel to Cuba, management training for private Cuban
businesses and farmers, an increase on the limit of remittances to
individuals and donations to humanitarian projects, an expansion in the
sale and commercial export of goods and services from the United States
including to Cuba’s private sector, expanded communication access from
Cuba and the ability to communicate freely, and allowing U.S.
telecommunication providers to offer internet services at lower prices.
4. Since assuming power in 2006, the Cuban president has expressed a
willingness to normalize relations with the United States and to adopt
some domestic measures such as emigration reform. On the other side
there has been a relaxation of certain policies by the American
president since 2009, which paved the way for the joint announcement on
December 17, 2014.
5. The measures by the White House assume an orderly and peaceful
transition. This policy serves as a guarantee to those in power, to
those who are responsible for everything both good or bad that has
happened over a very long period of time. Nevertheless, I think the
government of Cuba will try to slow the process even though its leaders
know it is unavoidable. They realize that, if it all ends in violence,
they will be the losers. Organized democratization guarantees stability
and the future of the Cuban nation.
6. Cuba was able to mobilize individuals, institutions and governments
to subvert the embargo. Several Latin American figures were involved or
served as intermediaries. Canada and the Vatican also played a prominent
role. With the enemy gone and the threat allayed, the previous rhetoric
has become meaningless. These committed forces expect changes in Cuba in
response to Obama’s speech. Denying this would mean losing the support
achieved so far.
In order to evaluate the significance of these measures, it is worth
analyzing the stagnation and reversals suffered during the period of
confrontation. These include the disappearance of civil society, the
absence of basic liberties, the subordination of the economy to
politics, the loss of the Cubans’ status as citizens and other ills.
Under a regime which might more accurately be defined as Fidelist, a key
characteristic of which was confrontation, there was a refusal to back
down until the opponent backed down. Better for the country to sink into
the ocean, as was stated on one occasion.
As external conflicts supplanted internal ones, military confrontation
became a way to avoid making any compromises on human rights. As the
effects of the above-mentioned negotiations begin to take effect,
however, external tensions will gradually give way to the tensions
between people and government. What happens after that will be the sole
and exclusive responsibility of Cubans themselves.
Given current conditions, doubts over the normalization of relations
will be kicked aside at the negotiating table. Previous rescues were
financed by subsidies from the Soviet Union and Venezuela, but the
former has disappeared and the latter is bankrupt. There has also been
little success at attracting foreign capital and there is no chance a
new financial savior will suddenly appear.
It is a phenomenon unprecedented in history. A government that came to
power by force has — despite fifty-five years of ongoing ineffectiveness
and economic mismanagement — spearheaded this change without any other
person, group or party managing to establish an alternative power base.
With apparent continuity, Fidelism is being discarded in the name of
Fidelism. It is an oddity that calls for detailed analysis, debate and
research. How did a country with a western orientation and a civil
society that arose in the first half of the twentieth century and lasted
until mid-century — a country that had one of the most advanced
constitutions for its time – manage to regress to a point of such
economic, spiritual and societal decay?
The normalization of relations, although important, is only a first
step. Lifting the embargo now depends more on the Cuban government than
the United States. It involves moving beyond an expressed willingness to
actually implementing measures to empower citizens and weaken opposition
to repealing the law in Congress. Otherwise, it will work to the
advantage of opponents of normalization. It is quite simple: lifting of
the embargo is in the hands of Cuba, in domestic actions implemented for
the benefit of Cubans.
In spite of this difficult hurdle, there will be a gradual and civilized
process of transformation, whose success will depend on the commitment
of the Cuban people, who have been deprived of the freedom and
opportunities that are the lifeblood of a nation’s citizenry. It is one
whose sense of civic responsibility has been lost but which can now no
longer be ignored.
The shifting landscape will allow for a restructuring of the foundations
that determine the fate of a nation and each of its people. Therefore,
the importance of restoring diplomatic relations between Cuba and the
United States will depend to some extent on the behavior of both
governments, but above all on the will and actions of Cubans themselves,
a responsibility that can not be assumed by any government foreign or
Original in Spanish
19 January 2015
Source: Rejecting Fidelism and Empowering Citizens / Diario de Cuba,
Dimas Castellano | Translating Cuba –