CUBA COMES FIRST — SUMMARY Regarding the document titled Guideline Project for the Economic and Social Policy, published by the Cuban Communist Party, on occasion of its delayed VI Congress, announced for this coming April, the undersigned wish to express our opinions based on our human rights, acknowledged by the Castro regime, to free expression and opinion. However, it must be reminded that in 1997, prior to the V Congress, the authors of La patria es de todos (The Homeland Belongs to All) were jailed.
It has been announced that the Congress will deal with a single subject: the economy. This seems to be an outside imposition, since the Congress is “the supreme organ of the party” and therefore no one should be setting guidelines for it. We consider it disrespectful toward Cuba’s citizens — and the Congress itself — that key topics such as political, social, and other issues are to be skirted. Even economic matters are dealt with in a limited fashion. The issue of pervasive corruption, for example, goes unmentioned and there is no explanation given regarding recent scandals. As a matter of fact, the hierarchy seems to wish that the Congress session act in a sort of vacuum without dealing upfront with such important topics as ration card reductions, a true tragedy for hundreds of thousands of Cuban families.
Currently, there is a process underway, and lasting until the end of February, with the purpose — it is said — of “gathering and taking into account” everyone’s opinions. Since this will be done under the absolute control of the party and the document itself is arid and vague, we consider this statement to be merely an act of propaganda and demagogery, virtually devoid of weight or credibility. Even worse, in previous similar processes, popular opinion has been either ignored (such as the raising of the retirement age, which was massively opposed by the workers) or its fate is unknown.
This document does not delve into historical matters and instead takes a self-critical side glance at the last half century, during which Cuba was driven into its current ruinous ditch despite the largesse of foreign subsidies.
The Guideline Project avoids a detailed analysis of the Economic Resolution from Congress V, most of whose decisions went unobserved. What is the basis now to believe that what is being proposed for the April event will be adhered to this time around? In fact, some premises of the Guideline Project are false. For example, it criticizes the Obama administration for not modifying the economic embargo when it actually has taken steps in this direction, steps that have been minimized by Havana and, in the case of contractor Alan Gross, have been sabotaged. This is counterproductive given that the most effective way of getting Cuba out its ruinous economic situation is for it to engage in economic relations with countries having solid economies. The United States would be the ideal candidate for this. But the fact is that our relations, not only with the United States, but also with the European Union, remain constrained due to the lack of observance of human rights in Cuba.
We believe that when the Guideline Project limits the conversation to the “updating of the economic and social model of the country” (in essence implying the maintenance of the status quo), it is actually condemning this alleged “reform” to failure. We agree with Fidel Castro’s statement that “the Cuban model doesn’t work, even for us.” And we believe that it needs to be changed, not “updated.” This would allow us to avoid an out-of-control social explosion, one that could be equal to or greater than the one witnessed at the main movie theater in Santa Clara and its surroundings. Such an explosion could arise from within the Cuban population given its extreme level of discontent. Unpopular measures such as massive layoffs, hikes in utility charges, and the announced cessation of the food rationing voucher program leave people with no sense of future. Increasing the number of self-employed workers, as has been well publicized, will not solve the dire current situation. This is especially the case given the highly unfavorable conditions for entering self-employment. Instead of resolving the crisis, these measures move Cuba closer and closer to a state of “savage communism.”
The Guideline Project acknowledges, even if indirectly, that the economic situation is serious. While this is true, it is also true that the political, social, moral and demographic situation of Cuba is serious. Additional topics, such as the environment, national identity and family separations are also of concern.
The economy has seen discrete progress in a few areas that happen to be linked to foreign investment. This is not a coincidence. The goal for foreign investment, however, is as a secondary role in the economy where Cubans are shamefully discriminated against.
We have three specific objections to the Guideline Project: (1) Not a single [economic] figure is mentioned; (2) The document contains in it are mostly empty wishes that bring to mind a letter to Santa Claus, statements that might be valid if the system worked, but it does not; and (3) The means set forth to bring about these hypothetic changes are a continuation of the same. “Only socialism can overcome the hardships and maintain the victories of the Revolution,” it states, when it has been “socialism” itself that is responsible for Cuba’s deplorable state.
We do not claim to have the final answers for leading Cuba out of its current dead end. But it is clear that the role of markets, private property, and individual investors cannot be denied anymore. Furthermore, we the economy cannot be perceived separately from politics and the rest of the problems bearing down on our country. Even the much tauted “Revolution’s triumphs,” which are in fast decline in any case, are not a product of the system itself but owe largely to foreign subsidies.
Human rights must be respected and dissent legalized. Cubans must be allowed the right to choose their leaders in free and open elections. The state must work for the individual, not the other way around. All those currently imprisoned for political reasons must be freed. There should be no more political prisoners.
Steps such as those outlined above will allow the much needed assistance of developed countries to find its way to Cuba, and this in turn will allow for a speedy economic recovery of the country.
It is possible that rank and file communists will distrust those of us in Cuba and the exile community who openly challenge the system and vice-versa. But the homeland of all Cubans is in danger. We must help it out of the terrible situation it currently finds itself in. We must do this based on one premise: Cuba comes first. Havana, December 7, 2010.
Félix Antonio Bonne Carcassés
Guillermo Fariñas Hernández
René Gómez Manzano
The authors are members of the Agenda for Transition, a coalition of individuals, political parties, and civic organizations seeking democratic reforms in Cuba. Guillermo Fariñas Hernández heads an independent press agency, Cubanacan, and is among Cuba’s most well known dissidents, inpart due to two six-month hunger strikes conducted in 2006 and 2010, the first demanding a free internet and the second the release of all political prisoners, respectively. He was awarded the Sakharov Prize for 2010 by the European Parliament. Felix Bonne Carcassés and Rene Gómez Manzano are long-time leaders in the Cuban opposition and initiators of numerous civic initiatives. They were signatories of the document mentioned above, “The Fatherland Belongs to Us All,” which was published around the Fifth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in 1997 and called for an end to the communist system and initiation of democratic change. Bonne, Manzano, and the other two signatories, Martha Beatriz Roque and Vladimir Roca, were arrested in 1997 and sentenced in 1999. Three were released conditionally in 2000 and a fourth, Vladimir Roca, in 2002.