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Two attitudes toward Cuba
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Published in La Nación newspaper in Costa Rica


In these moments of flux, uncertainty and potential change in Cuba, any true democrat, defender of human rights, proponent of justice, and believer that true sovereignty resides in the citizenry, not in the hands of those who dominate them, should be asking themselves a crucial question: how to use this window of opportunity to promote a fluid transition to democracy that bestows on the people the capacity to decide their future, freely express themselves, organize politically, and finally, be a real protagonist in an act in which, until now, they have been merely a controlled observer?

This is what president Óscar Arias did when he openly urged Raul Castro – dynastic successor to his sick brother, who will be 80 years old tomorrow – to utilize this opportunity of transfer of power to open to democratic change. This attitude, which loyally reflects our values as a free nation, prompted Cuba’s nominal vice-president, Carlos Lage, with total disrespect, to condition the terms on which both leaders would meet in Columbia, which our leader, obviously, cancelled.

Other personalities and organizations have had attitudes similar to Arias, whether it be to free political prisoners (among them 23 journalists), to demand a dialogue among all sectors of the country, at least a public declaration of such intentions by the second Castro. Further, if from the island no additional voices have surged from independent groups or dissidents expressing their opinions, it is precisely because of internal repression and because many of the few international press correspondents that work in the island must maintain the official version of the news; doing the contrary they would risk being expelled.

But the true adhesion to liberty and democracy is not fully upheld by all: there are prejudices, obsessions, simplifications and distortions that darken the vision and eliminate coherence. This is why a group of seven Nobel prize winners and about 400 self-proclaimed “intellectuals” (signing a manifesto can be an expedited way to reach that category), have signed a text about the situation in Cuba, according to which the only relevant actors are the Castro brothers and the government in Washington DC.

Founded on a sickly admiration for the dictator, yielding to his absolute power and full of prejudices against the United Status, the signatories, headed by José Saramago, convert the pro-democratic statement of some American officials into a “growing threat against the integrity of a nation, peace and the security in Latin America and the world.” They conclude, "We should impede a new aggression at all costs.” Nowhere in the document, published prominently in the government-run newspaper Granma, does it refer to the Cuban people. It does not mention those who suffer in prisons; there is no word about the Cuban intellectuals who cannot express themselves, nor does it mention the economic collapse barely sustained by Venezuelan oil, and it does not mention that the only real aggression in Cuba is of the authorities against its own people, something very different to the hypothetical “interventions” from the north.

This group’s attitude is upsetting, but not surprising. There have always been, and there always will be, intellectuals bent on power and prejudices. And, in the case of Cuba, the mix between the Castro myths, and the anti-American sentiment is what motivates these diatribes. The important thing is, meanwhile, that true democrats continue working toward freedom and transition on the island. It is not an easy process. But, luckily, despite the efforts of Mr. Saramago and other signers of the manifesto, it is very close.


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