Rafael Hernández

Rafael Hernández

Photo: Willy Castellanos/via BBC

Migratory things (IV)

“They launched the raft into the sea, and it felt the weight of the number of passengers and the provisions they had gathered for the dangerous journey. Instantly, it sank. After rescuing the saints, the family and those who supported them returned to Pogolotti and set about building a new boat.”


Consensus and dissent (III)

In a recent article on U.S. foreign policy doctrine, one commentator claims that it should move from America First to Dissidents First. According to this logic, that would be the way not only to “revive its moral leadership,” but to rebuild its strategic foundation in the face of “powers that cannot be militarily overthrown,” such as Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela and…Cuba. This New York Times opinion columnist maintains that “if it hadn't been for Sakharov, Solyenitsyn, Sharansky, the USSR would still be there.” So if the Chinese want trade tariffs lowered, they must release their imprisoned dissidents; the same as the Iranians if they aspire to renegotiate the nuclear agreement; just like the Russians, if they want their entrepreneurs to not be blacklisted. Because all those imprisoned dissidents (including José Daniel Ferrer, from Cuba), are well worth it to “force our adversaries to choose between their material interest and their habits of repression,” which “would provide a margin of security and maneuver for the dissidents that we would like to see one day in power. When it comes to foreign policy doctrine, it is more than decent. It's smart.” I have quoted this recent text at length, not precisely from...

Photo: Fernando Borges.

Consensus and dissent (I)

We are political animals, according to Aristotle and a friend of mine. The Greek based his argument on the fact that, unlike other beasts, we humans speak. My friend says that social networks are the eminent expression of our capacity for communicative political action. I don’t deny that both are right, but they are lacking a bit. Appreciating the nature of consensus requires going beyond reasoning about the public sphere and the circulation of discourses; as well as the network of precepts that articulate rights such as freedom of expression, demonstration, assembly, association. Consensus is defined in the eminent field of politics. When Hanna Arendt said that the first of human rights, above freedom and justice, was “the right to have rights,” she was inspired by the atrocious experience of the mass of refugees from World War II, in particular, German Jews like her, who had been left without citizenship, because they did not have a state that recognized them. That vision of hers, aimed at rescuing the dignity and rights of refugees, represented the human as an immanent condition of life, prior to politics. Hence arose the so-called aporia or paradox of human rights, which philosophy and political sociology...

On Calle 8, Miami. Photo: Marita Pérez Díaz

“In difficult times”: the tango of normalization (IV)

I’m curious that none of the observers of recent Cuban politics, not even my jurist friends, have commented on the planned legislation on demonstration and assembly in the implementation plan of the new Constitution. According to official sources, the approved schedule for 2019-2022 identified it with the title “Rights of demonstration and assembly” and proposed to consider it in September 2020. This was derived directly from Article 56 of the Constitution, where it is stated that “rights of assembly, demonstration and association, for lawful and peaceful purposes, are recognized by the State.” To give readers an idea, several main laws were planned in 2020, including Territorial Planning, Courts, Criminal Procedure, Housing, Public Health, Claim of constitutional rights and National defense. Much was postponed in the year of the pandemic, not just in quantity. It was not the case, by the way, of the Law on Associations, scheduled for 2022 in the same schedule, a date that has just been ratified by the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP). As for the decree-law on demonstration and assembly, its normative status was “modified” and postponed until the next legislature (April 2023), along with others of higher rank, such as defense and national...

Cuban flags fly from the so-called anti-imperialist tribune, in front of the building of the United States embassy in Havana. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS Archive.

“In difficult times”: the tango of normalization (I)

In a well-known poem from 1968, Heberto Padilla describes a man who is asked to successively hand over parts and capacities of his body. When he has yielded them all, they urge him to walk straight into the future, “because in difficult times/this is undoubtedly the decisive test.” Although those verses, at the time so controversial, referred to the asymmetry between the state and the individual, their poetic allure allows us to reread them as a metaphor for the asymmetry of powers between the U.S. and Cuba, and the difficult deal between our two nations and countries. Now that a window for understanding between the two sides seems to be opening again, as a result of the recent elections in the United States, some ask the question: what will the island’s government do to seize this new opportunity, on which the country’s future depends? In English it is said “it takes two to dance the tango.” Unlike the rumba, in which the dancers evolve on their own, when one dances so close as in tango, there is no way to judge what one is doing without seeing (and understanding) what the other is doing. To truly appreciate it, would be...

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