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 security, citizenship, land, migration and foreigners.
If the latest events in November put the cursor on the need to implement Article 56, it should not be forgotten that the issue of Cuban emigrated citizens belongs to that same larger political plane, even though the constitutional text does not speak of them. Institutionalizing the relationship between the State, Cuban society, and its members inside and outside the island also depends on how the pending laws on citizenship, immigration, migration, and others, give new content to that relationship. If the political will continues to be not to subordinate the relationship with emigrants to the political situation with the United States or with any other country, will we have to wait for the election of a new National Assembly to bring it closer to a new normal.
Regardless of how this question is answered, returning to the tango step with the United States that concerns us in this series, the question of the role of Cuban Americans has a different and its own connotation.
I had previously put on the table some rather provocative questions about the place of Cuban Americans as actors in American society and politics, and about their impact, supposed or real, on Cuban political dynamics.
Are they pieces on the U.S. board? Do they have their own game?
Are they being moved like pawns moving in one direction? Or rather like chess knights, walking one way and another, back and forth? Do we know how they really do it? Is it like the polls and the TV channels in Spanish say? What if they were not an irremissible part of any game, neither on the side of white nor on black? If we stopped considering them pieces on that board, why would the vast majority not be?
The charged atmosphere of the electoral campaign and its results permeated the fair examination of these questions, within the great theater of politics. Not two months have passed, and yet now such controversial reasoning may seem remote. Let me recall that, for some, the strategic weight of Florida in the electoral vote, the supposedly decisive factor of the Cuban-American vote in Florida and that vote’s radical alignment with Trump could decide the elections, made of many bits, as a lady from Hialeah talking about some kidney beans
By the way, the television and Youtubesque bombardment that the electoral campaign raised in Cuban Miami seemed to replicate the old culture of the enclave. However, the wavelength with the vociferous Trumpism of artistic personalities of the stature of Los Tres de La Habana and Boncó Quiñongo, communicators in the style of Alex Otaola and Carlos Otero, Cuban-American Republican activists and others who barely have residency on the streets of Hialeah.
It is explained by a retro trend. That is to say, it does not really respond, even if it seems like it, to a leap towards the culture of historical exile, as some analysts point out, but, as the anthropologist Ariana Hernández-Reguant documents in her field studies, to a leap towards acculturation: they want to become Americans at a double pace, for which there is no better flag than America First and the cult of Donald Trump. So far, Schopenhauer would say, the world of Cuban-American politics as will and representation.
Today we know that Trump won Florida cleanly; that Cuban Americans seem to have voted more for Trump, although they were not the ones who gave him the state; that this was not the decisive field of the national electoral battle; that Trump lost it and that, if he was dangerously close to winning it, that had nothing to do with the vote of the Cuban-American counties in Florida.
The unexpected Trumpism of a part of these Cuban Americans, as well as their previous enthusiastic Obamaism, has been analyzed by sociologist Guillermo Grenier, which saves me from elaborating on its significance: it is synchronized with the cycles of the administration in Washington. Although there is a certain historical pattern here too, dating back to 1960, the FIU poll has captured, in its years of existence to date, the contradictory bias of the political sentiments of the Cuban community in Miami counties.
If they were introduced into a Cartesian rational matrix, these results would produce a kind of short circuit: they want the embargo to be maintained and even that an eventual attack against military targets be considered, but to continue remittances and parcel shipments, to facilitate direct postal service and visas in Havana, and above all, that the trips not be touched.
That country that is blocked and bombed, and in the meantime visited, would be a great subject of study in the field of political psychology. As for the Cuban-American factor in the most recent Cuba policy, let us take, as an example, the recent event of November 27. As is known, Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart asked Congress
for support for “the brave activists in favor of democracy in Cuba, who are risking their lives at this very moment,” and congratulated President Trump “for his solidarity with the Cuban people by imposing harsh sanctions against the Cuban dictatorship.” It would be difficult, however, to prove that Díaz-Balart caused the reaction of Undersecretary of State Michael Kozak or the logistical comings and goings of the charge d’affaires, Timothy Zúñiga-Brown, in relation to the San Isidro Movement.
When Kozak affirms that “this policy (Trump’s) is forcing a small negotiation between the government and the people, at this optimal moment in the history of Cuba,” or when he said, from “his many years of dealing with Cubans,” that the new situation justifies the need to “refine” the Cuba policy, “with the objective of strengthening civil society and the private sector, but not the regime,” he omits any reference to Cuban Americans as a source of legitimation.
The same thing happens when Trump’s State Department defines the role of the representatives of the U.S. government in Cuba as “amplifying the cries of dissidents, activists, independent journalists and the religious community that defends their rights to associate and to pray freely.”
After that refined convergence, so similar to those of previous administrations, the inevitable reaction of Biden’s new national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, is barely contained in a tweet, which doesn’t mention the cause of the historic exile nor does it directly refer to the regime change policy.
Given that Trump has mutated from winner to loser in a few days, he has even been abandoned by Senator Marco Rubio, his closest companion on the rostrum when visiting Miami, whose key role in Cuba policy, according to some experts, became evident in that scenic proximity. Now that there are no Cubans in important positions in the White House to blame for this policy, but only professional officials in a foreign relations bureaucracy, who continue to shoot until the end (as in westerns), some experts argue that Biden will go to court
these voters, so that they will go over to the Democratic Party in the next elections, by means of the original promise to give them the Cuban regime tied hands and feet on a tray (that’s a saying). Perhaps Biden’s team, which is not new to this situation, will look at the FIU poll and their conflicting wish list, and come up with a more realistic way to capture the Cuban-American vote, assuming that that goal was keeping them awake.
The first time I landed in Miami, I was amazed to hear the adventures of Los Tres Villalobos and La Tremenda Corte, my favorite shows at the age of ten, on the radio. Some journalists who started visiting Cuba in Obama’s short summer and riding the Buicks and Chevies that we have renamed “almendrones,” said that it was like doing it in a time machine, and that Cuba lived in another geological age. I told them not to be carried away by impressions, and to look at the Hyundai or Lada engine that they carried inside.
A sociologist friend has told me that journalists will never stop being carried away by impressions, no matter how much data one gives them. I don’t think it’s always like this; but I am convinced that my first impression of Little Havana, with Los Villalobos and Trespatines, the Caballero Funeral Home and the Fifth Avenue clock, did not capture what was moving underneath. It is an image that one chooses to believe and that, in the best case, constitutes nothing more than a representation, to which underlying causes are attributed, really unlikely
until they can be demonstrated.
There is no PCR that makes it possible to measure Trumpism in the vein of Cubans who enter through the airport or of those who stay in Miami. In case they were asymptomatic, it is worth as much as considering them carriers of a flu that only thrives in favorable related conditions.
The question is to what extent the real and the virtual can be distinguished in their impact on future Cuba. My favorite question in the FIU poll, which I don’t know if Guillermo continues to ask, was the following: “Would you return to Cuba if democracy and freedom [those that we already know] were restored?” I remember 83% said no.
For an exile, it’s peculiar.
But maybe not so much. Some Vietnamese perceived as exiles have returned, such as Nguyen Cao Ky, the last president of South Vietnam, who has returned to make his peace with the Communist Party. It is unlikely that Cao Ky and other millions who return, will have tea with their relatives and the municipal Communist Party at the Lunar New Year feast, and contribute to the 1,000 times more beautiful Vietnam that Ho Chi Minh advocated, have the best opinion of the political regime, even after all the renovations. Among those overseas Vietnamese,
there is everything, even a Third Republic in Exile, which, from Orange County―the Dade County of the Vietnamese―constantly promotes in Congress a motion to condemn Vietnam’s government for the violation of human rights. The motion rarely passes and if it does, no one pays much attention to it.
By the way, I have around a copy of the draft law on demonstrations and assembly that the Vietnamese National Assembly had been discussing for two years the first time I was there.
Although that parliament does not admit another party, experts describe it as very argumentative and diverse, so it thoroughly debates its legislative projects. Seven years later, they have not yet agreed on the aforementioned law.
A comparative vision always provides an in-depth perspective on our own problems. I don’t have space to comment here on how the opposition press fares in Vietnam or other current issues such as freedom of expression and human rights. The fact is that few countries dance tango with the U.S. like Vietnam, including this administration. My economist friends will say that the Vietnamese reforms explain everything. I suspect not.