2007-09-01 / Jaime Trobo
What are the next steps for US and Latin America?
If Cuba is to be incorporated as a tolerant and democratic society into the international community, its people need help. And the aim to accompany Cuba on its way to democracy is what we are encouraged by. Who is the opponent of this great intention? Undoubtedly,the dictatorial regime which strictly restricts the liberties of its citizens. One of the main tasks of the dictatorship is to perpetuate itself in power, and that is why it makes use of an expedient diplomacy, which has been serving its purpose for fifty years, and of a military and police intelligence that carries out its duty without any prejudice or limits. A part of the mission of these two government authorities has been to divide the internal opposition, to crush the dissent and to split international public opinion on the approach towards the present and the future of Cuba.
I have no doubts that the differences in the common position of Europe on this issue are a result of the effective actions of Cuban diplomacy and intelligence. Otherwise, there would be no way how to explain why the infringement of liberties and the violation of human rights are not firmly condemned.
Cuba and International Community
Let me now draw three circles that would cover the relations between Cuba and the international community.
The first circle is a delineation of the relationship with Latin America. This part of the American continent is deeply indebted to the nation of Cuba because it has been the chief supporter of the Cuban dictatorship on the international scene. The left-wing streams of Latin America have protected the regime. By its strategy of presenting itself as the “victim” of imperialism, Cuba gained their unconditional support and this support helped hide gross and continued violations of human rights. In Latin America, it is very difficult to raise greater awareness and to create space for criticism. I have just arrived from a meeting of the Commission on Human Rights of the Latin American Parliament in Panama. This Commission has been reported several complaints by Cuban political prisoners or by their family members, and it has also been submitted a request by the family of Hilda Molina, who asks for support in order to be granted a permission to travel abroad. Moreover, the Commission now has at its disposal a complete report on human rights in Cuba, prepared by the Cuban Democratic Directory, and in spite of all this, it is very difficult to reach consensus on pointing out the responsibility of the government and on requesting that the human rights be respected. At the last Latin American Summits, no country came with the topic of Cuba and its failure to comply with its international commitments, for instance with the Viña del Mar declaration about governability and democracy.
The role of Latin America is of great importance and therefore, it is necessary to work hard in order to achieve that its political elite is provided objective information and gets more engaged in a situation which is to change soon. And if the Latin American commitment is to be enhanced, the information provided has to reflect very effectively the real state of affairs on the island.
I think that in Latin America there is a great deal of work left. The opposition and the dissent have to be introduced and presented as a democratic option calling for liberty and for the introduction of democracy.
The second circle would undoubtedly cover the United States whose relation with the Cuban reality can in no way be denied. I believe that by making Latin America more engaged in the freedom on the island, we could achieve a certain balance that would somehow minimize the risk of the United States solving the future of Cuba on its own. This is what makes many people concerned and what the dictatorship uses very well for its own advantage. The United States, which has recently reopened its dialogue with some countries of the region, has to include in its agenda the talks about their commitment with the democracy in Cuba. Those who are ready to introduce the essential issue of transition to democracy into their debates with the Cuban government are Mexico, Brazil, Chile and even Uruguay.
The United States quite often tends to come with important news concerning Cuba, however, these news are not usually well reported and there are always doubts as to whether the primary decisions are not influenced by political circumstances and purposes, such as for instance the upcoming elections etc. And other times, it is the Cuban dictatorship itself, who arranges for the dissemination of similar information, because this perfectly fits in the historical scheme in which Cuba stands for the victim of imperialism. What is astonishing is that while the United States sells Cuba foodstuffs for more than 300 hundred million dollars that the island pays in cash, the international public opinion still accepts the Cuban complaints against the “embargo” and the “blocking” as valid. The United States needs to speak more about the future, about what it will do to support the island when it is free, rather than to speak about what is happening there now.
I am quite positive that if the US government openly expressed its commitment to revert Guantánamo back under Cuban sovereignty, provided there is democracy restored on the island, it could bring about a very important and dramatic effect. The fulfilment of a historical request by Cuba would undoubtedly be a great pledge that from now on can be associated with freedom, democracy and human rights on the island.
The third circle, which from my point of view is also very important, covers Europe. The cultural proximity, the space for investment and the interest to find its own position in another country of the region may, too, play a decisive role in the request for the freedom of Cuba. Europe with its legitimate democracy should get very actively involved in the restoration of democracy in Cuba. However, a conflict of interests, chiefly economic ones, and a remote understanding of the everyday hardship of Cuban people have conspired against Europe and the continent has lost the prominent role it might have played.
Undoubtedly, the democratic countries of Latin America, the United States and Europe all want Cuba to be a good and worthy partner, and the only way how to achieve this is to make the regime feel isolated and to show support to the opposition.
What kind of support we suggest
We have been asked to suggest some measures which would help to incorporate Cuba in the democratic international community:
- What I believe to be of great importance is the creation of an information system which would continuously provide news to the leaders of other countries. The information should be short, easily accessible and should constantly focus on the opposition and the dissidents. The regime has the door open and the members of the opposition need someone to open the door for them, too. On the stage there has to appear a trustworthy and reliable interlocutor, and that is what the opposition surely is.
- I think that the opposition and the dissidents have to launch an intensive campaign to present themselves to the Latin American politicians. They do so quite often in the United States and in Europe and are relatively successful, however, it is essential they launch similar campaigns in the countries of the first circle. Moreover, I believe the public opinion could be very much influenced, if the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba organized a meeting of its prominent members in Latin America. Such a meeting may really be very important.
- I think no effort should be spared to associate the supporters of free Cuba from the different parliaments in a special group. The group should include representatives of Latin American countries, the United States and Europe and these representatives should regularly express their support of democracy and call for the respect of human rights. They should do so at parliamentary sessions, in international organizations and other spheres of interest.
- The opposition and the new generation of the military, that nowadays have half the responsibility, should be provided all necessary information and be made aware of the role they can play in the transition.
- The economic support of the regime comes from two sources – from Hugo Chávez and from the international companies which have their investments in Cuba. The former, who is fully attached to the ideas of totalitarianism, is interested in the persistence of the dictatorship. The case of the latter, however, is astonishing. The companies of European origin are very concerned for their good reputation, they care for the environment and apply all their quality standards for the advantage of their clients and consumers, yet they feel in no way committed to make any moral judgements concerning human rights, freedom and democracy in the country where they run their business. The environment and the quality are more important than human beings and their rights, and this must change.
The main obstacle for the success of these measures is the fact that the support of the opposition is not shown on a regular basis, and the same happens with the calls for the liberties and with the demands made on the regime. The dictatorship, on the other hand, is in a permanent action, organized by authorities which are used to “disinformation”, and its diplomacy is very active. Currently, there is a great deal of intensive work being done not just to provide for the survival of the regime, but also for the consolidation of power in the hands of Raúl Castro. If there are many individuals in the international community who want to help Cuba to be free, they have to work as intensively and systematically as the regime.
The “succession” has to be challenged and the regime has to be adverted that under certain circumstances, the successor would not be recognized. It is no secret that everything is being arranged so that the dictatorship can continue and the international public opinion is being systematically prepared for it.
Moreover, the new Commission on Human Rights has to take action without any hesitation. And the OAS, in accordance with the Inter-American Democratic Charter, has to start organizing support for free elections so that Cuba can be re-integrated into the American democratic community.
I believe that in recent years, we have seen many achievements. There is an international community which is interested in the situation of Cuba. This International Committee has made many individuals committed to the issue. The opponents of the regime have created a joint network of their common objectives in a simple and brief platform which calls for freedom, for the respect of human rights and for the right to have a say in the future of their country. This is a great achievement and the opposition deserves our congratulations. We believe that in the future, their platform will have a significant impact on the internal situation of Cuba.
Nevertheless, the Cuban people desiring freedom certainly need help from the international community. Had there been no strain by the international community in the times of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, those regimes would have lasted much longer.
Jaime Trobo, Member of Parliament, Uruguay.