The Silent Successes of the Cuban Dissidence
The Silent Successes of the Cuban Dissidence / Ivan Garcia
Posted on February 7, 2014
Before the olive-green autocracy designed economic reforms, the
peaceful, illegal opposition was demanding opportunities in small
businesses and in the agricultural sector as well as repeal of the
absurd apartheid in the tourist, information and technology spheres that
turned the Cuban into a third class citizen.
General Raul Castro and his entourage of technocrats headed by the czar
of economic reform, Marino Murillo, were not the first to demand changes
in national life. No.
When Fidel Castro governed the nation as if it were a military camp, the
current “reformers” occupied more or less important positions within the
army and the status quo.
None raised his voice publicly to demand reforms. No one with the
government dared to write an article asking for immediate economic or
If within the setting of the State Council those issues were aired, we
Cubans did not have access to those debates. The tedious national press
never published an editorial report about the course or changes that the
nation should have undertaken.
Maybe the Catholic Church, in some pastoral letter, with timidity and in
a measured tone, approached certain aspects. The intellectuals who today
present themselves to us as representatives of a modern left also
Neither did Cuban followers of Castro-ism in the United States and
Europe question the fact that their compatriots on the island had no
access to mobile telephones, depended on the State for travel abroad or
lost their property if they decided to leave the country.
Who did publicly raise a voice was the internal dissidence. Since the
end of the 1970’s, when Ricardo Bofill founded the Committee for Human
Rights; in addition to demanding changes in political matters and
respect for individual liberties, he demanded economic opportunities and
legal changes in property rights.
Independent journalists have also, since their emergence in the mid-90’s
and, more recently, the alternative bloggers. If the articles demanding
greater economic, political and social autonomy were published, several
volumes would be needed.
Something not lacking among the Cuban dissidence is political discourse.
And they all solicit greater citizen freedoms, from the first of Bofill,
Martha Beatriz’s, Vladimiro Roca’s, Rene Gomez Manzano’s and Felix Bonne
’s Fatherland is for All, Oswaldo Paya’s Varela Project, to Antonio
Rodiles’ Demand for Another Cuba or Oscar Elias Biscet’s Emilia Project.
The local opposition can be criticized for its limited scope in adding
members and widening its community base. But its indubitable merits in
the submission of economic and political demands cannot be overlooked.
The current economic reforms established by Castro II answer several
core demands raised by the dissidence. No few opponents suffered
harassment, beatings and years in prison for demanding some of the
current changes, which the regime tries to register as its political
The abrogation of absurd prohibitions on things like the sale of cars
and houses, travel abroad or access to the internet has formed part of
the dissidents’ proposals.
Now, a sector of the Catholic Church is lobbying the government. A
stratum of intellectuals from the moderate left raises reforms of
greater scope and respect for political differences.
But when Fidel Castro governed with an iron fist, those voices kept
silent. It will always be desirable to remind leaders that Cuba is not a
private estate and that each Cuban, wherever he resides, has the right
to express his policy proposals.
But, unfortunately, we usually ignore or overlook that barely a decade
ago, when fear, conformity and indolence put a zipper on our mouths, a
group of fellow countrymen spent time demanding reforms and liberties at
risk even to their lives.
Currently, while the debate by the intellectuals close to the regime
centers on the economic aspect, the dissidence keeps demanding political
One may or may not agree with the strategies of the opponents. But you
cannot fail to recognize that they have been — and continue to be — the
ones who have paid with jail, abuse and exile for their just claims.
They could have been grandparents who run errands and care for their
grandchildren. Or State officials who speechify about poverty and
inequality, eating well twice a day, having chauffeured cars and
traveling around the world in the name of the Cuban revolution.
But they decided to bet on democracy. And they are paying for it.
Translated by mlk.
6 February 2014
Source: The Silent Successes of the Cuban Dissidence / Ivan Garcia |
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