In the first installment of the interview with OnCuba Roberto Veiga and Lenier Gonzalez presented the new project Cuba Posible, its origins, characteristics and challenges. In this second stage of the dialogue, the former editors of Lay Space magazine, also commented on the political order in Cuba, democracy, social justice and economic welfare, the current status and perspectives on the relations between Cuba and the United States.
Is there now a favorable political climate for Cuba Posible´s consolidation as a critical project?
RV: Cuba Posible does not want to criticize any segment of Cubans, not the official positions. We want to be creative, not critical. However, from this task will emanate criticisms, but they will not be our aim; and we will always ask that critics are made so that those who have been challenged to respond positively and feel that those who criticize them also want their well-being. That is the only way to destroy trenches, build bridges and build like José Martí proposed a republic with all and for the good of all.
LG: Cuba is a country with a huge social and political diversity. Current institutional architecture of the Cuban state no longer serves to govern this country. Such institutions should not be demolished, but will gradually be restored to being in tune with national and hemispheric new dynamics. Building state institutions that are able to process pluralism, and put it in terms of the historical goals of the nation, is an essential requirement that must respond to those who govern Cuba in the XXI century.
RV: On the other hand, right now there is a national consensus about the need for great changes, without implying restoring the past or disassemble the current model in an absolutely reckless way. The vast majority craves intense and gradual integration of the entire socio-political-cultural plurality in the performance of the established institutional process and the positive dynamics that emerge from this interaction conform institutions to a more liberating and democratic, fair and of solidarity design.
There are radical groups in all parts of the Cuban social spectrum, any attempt to criticize recognition between different positions, encounter and dialogue, integration and cooperation. However, these are more every day regardless of the paths that lead to welfare, appear much power they have within their spheres of influence. It is becoming increasingly visible a wide variety of people, young and mature, reconciled, because they have never been confronted, not mutually desire the annihilation, but to share and develop the country together. This new diversity, I have no doubt, will be the hope of the Cuba House. Cuba Posible counts on them sincerely.
LG: The point is that we did not want to create more polarization; we are here rather to the contrary, to soothe and to create synergies of understanding. So in Cuba Posible will have no place those who think future on the basis of social explosion, the settling of scores with “Castro and his followers” or promoting “regime change” designed in smart laboratories. Nor those advocating simplistic outputs forward, those who propose a “transition board” focused solely on individual rights and “free elections” and do not mention a word about social justice, redistribution of wealth, power asymmetry with respect United States or don’t acknowledge, with scandalous childishness- – the real balance of forces in Cuba. Nor those who, in their quest to defeat the Cuban government, are lobbying in the foreign ministries of the globe to maintain or impose sanctions that threaten national sovereignty and, in the end, just make life the most terrible to Cuban citizens. Nor will it accommodate those who think Cuba is the best of all possible havens, and that there is nothing to change.
What are, in your opinion, the features that should have any political project in Cuba that is committed to the welfare of the Cuban, independence of criteria and achieving a more just and democratic society?
RV: For a while now, Lenier Gonzalez and I have seen that it is possible and convenient to work so several political platforms can live in Cuba together. In this regard, we accept partisan pluralism, because we consider a natural dynamic that could contribute positively. However, we have always stated two conditions. First, there is a multiparty system in a democratic context that can truly guarantee the amount of sovereignty of each citizen and fairer social development, while preventing political parties to hijack the state and democratic mechanisms. The second is that the political parties, having or not the executive function of the State, are loyal to society and the legislation must ensure their achievements and hopes. That way we could enjoy a socialism that can integrate, even, political diversity.
So one of the steps we should take immediately and I have said on other occasions, is related to article five of the current Constitution. This could continue to endorse the existence of a single party, and then today would be almost impossible otherwise. However, it should shed all elements that place the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) as a control mechanism, placed above society and the State. This would render loads unnecessary to the society and public institutions would place the PCC in a most appropriate dynamic to their institutional nature and force it to achieve its hegemony, not by legal privileges, but through an acutely political exercise. These changes would bring much good to the PCC and the political culture of our people.
I want to emphasize, as I have said on other occasions, it would not be fair a political platform that advocates for harming the people if necessary to achieve their political purposes, which is lined with foreign powers that distort national interests, possessing organic links with national bodies or in charge of promoting foreign subversion, which watches over the sovereignty of the country and social harmony, and has as a purpose the annihilation of the enemy, among other distinctions.
You mentioned that one of the issues for which Cuba Posible will worry would be the normalization of relations between Cuba and the US Is it reasonable to believe that real possibilities for an approach exist today?
LG: I’m not an expert on the subject. The current socio-political context could facilitate a process of rapprochement and dialogue between the two countries. The reform process in Cuba, the articulation of a anti-embargo sentiment in the US, and the existence of a democratic government, are positive signs in this regard. However, we should not think that will pass through a high-speed highway and unhindered.
The dispute between the two nations is nearly two centuries old, and the asymmetry of power is overwhelming. Moreover, there are powerful groups in the country, connected to the right sectors of the Cuban American community, that think that Cuba must self-flagellate, humiliate for its last 50 years of history. That arrogance leads nowhere. On the other hand, the Cuban government should open channels of dialogue with the moderate Cuban exile.
Cuba needs to strengthen its economy and redesign its business model to suit the XXI century, and must do so on the most favorable terms possible against the United States. In the current context, not moving for Cuba will mean defeat in the medium and long term. That is why it would be a strategic move forward in adapting the Cuban political and economic institutions to harmonize with the Latin American region, the only guarantee for effective inclusion of Cuba in the new dynamic the hemisphere is living. To do this, the new Latin American constitutionalism is a powerful and necessary reference. A strong political and economic integration of Cuba to the southern nations could be the counterweight needed to settle other equally urgent challenge: the urgent need to rebuild the bilateral relationship with the United States, with all the challenges that entails.
What obstacles should the government of Cuba and the US overcome if they want to solve the distance of more than fifty years?
RV: The largest of the obstacles that governments of Cuba and the United States must overcome is related to the lack of political trust between the two. This will only be reversed when these States, without each waiting for what the other deployed, increasingly positive attitudes with ability to build the necessary confidence. But keep in mind, as Lenier said, the distances between them, the power of one and the weakness of the other is very large, so that a dialogue of equals would rather be ideal.
Despite this, there are specific issues that hinder the progress of the process of understanding. I only refer to two of these questions, the current negative influence they have.
The issue of the so-called human rights in Cuba it an important issue that many incorporate as a condition for truly effective steps that contribute to the understanding. I think that, certainly, it is a matter that we must address. In this regard, I understand that the issue of Human Rights can integrate all subjects have to deal with the governments of Cuba and the United States, but I believe that is an issue we need to vent among Cubans, regardless of political criteria and country of residence.
To do this, in any case, I think we must consider not only the theory of human rights, but also the circumstances, the use they have been given, the reality. Otherwise, judgments could be wrong, and the solutions, difficult to find.
An appreciation of the social practice which provides the current Cuban model, we would argue that prevailing conception that favors equality and the so-called social rights (eg access to education, culture, social care and public health) . For some, equality and social justice aspirations were not met by the models of society and the state in the Republican era. There were guarantees of equality, but not enough according to the claims of the nation and the demands of the most authentic justice. Attempted against that purpose certain views that favored the so-called individual rights (such as: the public expression of any opinion, the opportunity to meet without any control and viability to partner with the aim of ensuring individual interests) unnecessarily prejudice the rights and social equality. Also broke this purpose an intense bond with the sectors of power in the United States, which imposed a very asymmetrical relationship between the two countries to the detriment of important projections advocating a policy that would lead us to a better balance in all areas of the nation.
The struggle between these trends led to the triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959, which had the support of the broadest popular sectors, eager for equality and social rights, began a process of exclusion of liberal views and mechanisms that offered them power, as well as relations between Cuba and the United States. This favored the establishment of important social rights and equal solid frames. However, it forced to limit certain freedoms and relations of the island with countries important to our survival.
This led to what some call a model of resistance, but not a model of development. We all know we have to complete the work. It becomes imperative to widen the restricted freedoms and to ensure, in turn, that through them not that past marked by a conception that legitimized inequality restored. This would be an unforgivable disgrace. Therefore, it is a political myopia or evil intent to impose as a condition for normalizing relations with Cuba, that this undertakes a program of “democratization” in order to restore to its true importance the limited freedoms.
Another aspect that, according to many, seems to stand in the way of negotiations is that of Alan Gross, the American contractor imprisoned in Cuba for executing actions not permitted by law, and the three Cubans serving severe penalties in the US to work for Cuban security institutions. Indeed, the release of these by one of the States concerned, or by both, could lighten loads the negotiating process and drive it for broader and deeper paths. I think both governments should consider, either as the convenience of taking the first step in this direction. Also I think that all these people are now condemned and in prison because they are victims of cold war politics.
And is it possible that civil society on the island, as well as the emigration, may contribute to this approach?
RV: All Cubans, regardless of their political views, or residence, must participate in this process. This has to be a patriotic duty. Cuban citizens, other than the official views, they must find ways to actively participate. And those who hold government positions, they cannot reject the different views. However, a few other, more or less official positions, must respect the legitimate foundations of the established order. Moreover, it should provide that the government should endeavor to adapt, increasingly, the country’s institutions, in order that such plural participation is possible.
Emigration should integrate into this process, politics, social, cultural and economic life of the country. When this happens, then we will be better able to cope with the normalization of relations between Cuba and any country. And today as at any time improve ties between the government of Cuba and the United States, including all parts of our society, living within or outside the territory of the island, could catapult us from distrust and belligerence into a climate of understanding between citizens and aliens that we so much need.