Monday, March 25, 2024

Venezuela as an Opportunity

 A personal dialogue with Cuban friends about Venezuela

The Donald Trump / John Bolton linkage of  Venezuela and Cuba was designed to justify greater pressure on Cuba, even containing hints of military intervention.

I have argued for a long time, perhaps unrealistically, that the only hope for a restructuring of relations with Cuba was a grand bargain reconciliation. The embargo will only be ended when we provide a reason to do so in terms of US interests.  The moral and political case is completely valid but has no significant impact on US policymakers.  

Cuba cannot control Venezuela but it can influence it.  If the opposition wins in Venezuela, that is not the end of the story as we saw when Bolsonaro won in Brazil.  A political process that denies the authority of the populace will ultimately fail.  I hope but don't know that reaching a peaceful solution for Venezuela is important enough to the US that it will find full end-of-the-embargo engagement with Cuba as an appropriate response for Cuban assistance.

The above reflects my conclusion of a dialogue I initiated with two Cuban friends.

What is Maduro afraid of?  It would benefit Cuba (and Venezuela) if Havana can persuade him to play by the rules.

And received these responses from sophisticated very pro-engagement people:

Friend 1:  Why do you think that Corina Machado is telling the truth? The longest history of lies about politics in Latin America is what is published in the US and Western European press. And who’s and which rules is Maduro violating?


Friend 2:  The idea of Cuba responsible for Maduro is the bias of people that don't understand Venezuela. The idea of Cuba negotiating with the US using the its allies as a chip is reflecting total ignorance about Cuba's foreign policy.  Like asking a Quaker to join a guerrilla group.   The record shows that US Venezuela relations are NOT mirroring US Cuba relations.

This was my reply to them:

Conflicting interpretations about what was agreed to in Barbados.        

Tuesday's meeting in Barbados, brokered by Norway, was the first between the two sides in 11 months.

The talks, meant to provide a way out of Venezuela's long-running political and economic crisis, will continue at an unspecified date, the parties said, adding they are committed to respecting the results of the vote.
The deal says each side can choose its 2024 candidate according to its internal rules, but did not reverse bans on some opposition figures - including Oct. 22 primary frontrunner Maria Corina Machado - that prevent them from holding office.
The opposition has said the bans, handed down by the controller general, are unlawful and Washington has rejected any roadblocks to opposition candidates.

"If you have an administrative inhabilitation...from the controller general of the republic you cannot be a candidate, I want to clarify that," Jorge Rodriguez, the head of the government delegation told a press conference after the signing.

Speaking before Rodriguez, the head of the opposition delegation Gerardo Blyde had said the deal could allow banned candidates to "recover their rights."       

A nuanced analysis from the International Crisis Group:   

The Barbados agreement states that the parties will promote the “authorisation” of all presidential candidates and political parties “as long as they meet the requirements to participate in the presidential election, consistent with the procedures provided under Venezuelan law”. In a press conference following the signing of the agreement, Jorge Rodríguez – president of Venezuela’s National Assembly and the government’s chief negotiator – interpreted the clause as stating that a banned candidate could not run. Such disqualifications, however, have been roundly condemned by the U.S. government. If the Maduro government does not revisit its bans, Washington’s appetite for lifting further sanctions will dull, and the U.S. could reverse the relief measures it has put in place. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that Washington had insisted on a timeline and process for the reinstatement of “all candidates” (underlined in the State Department’s communiqué) by the end of November – adding that the “release of all wrongfully detained U.S. nationals and Venezuelan political prisoners” should also have begun by that time.

The issue of proscribed candidates is typical of the uncertainties and ambiguities that shroud the deal and could still imperil the validity of the 2024 poll. Various political constituencies in the U.S. and Latin America are likely to reject any election in which leading candidates are denied the right to run. Should Machado be proclaimed the victor in the opposition primaries and the ban on her running for office persist, her supporters and their foreign allies could feel compelled to denounce a rigged election and call for a return to a campaign of pressure upon Caracas. …. The U.S., the EU and Latin American states should continue to press for bans on candidates to be removed, ideally through an independent review process that would need to be created, and be primed to lift more sanctions if the government accedes. At a very minimum, it is essential that all politicians be free to campaign in Venezuela, and that the opposition’s designation of an alternative candidate if its chosen nominee remains proscribed be respected."  

-- John McAuliff  3/25/24

An update:

By EFE (Confidencial)   26 de marzo 2024

HAVANA TIMES – Brazil and Colombia, allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, joined the wave of rejection from the US, the European Union (EU), and other countries regarding the development of the Venezuelan electoral process and pointed out that the elections on July 28 are an opportunity to “strengthen” democracy in that country, as agreed in Barbados.

The reactions of the international community came the day after the end of the candidate registration period for the July 28th presidential elections in Venezuela, in which the main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Platform, denounced obstacles to nominating its candidate, Corina Yoris, chosen due to the impossibility of Maria Corina Machado to compete because she is disqualified.

Finally, the Unity Platform reported the provisional registration of Edmundo González Urrutia, who may be replaced starting on April 1, provided he does not have any administrative sanctions or impediments under the law, and the National Electoral Council (CNE) admits the candidacy that replaces him.

Commitments Made in Barbados

The government of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to whom Maduro committed to calling elections, was one of the first to express its “concern” and pointed out that the development of the electoral process “is not compatible” with the commitments of the Barbados agreement, signed in October 2023.

“Based on the available information, we note that the candidate (Corina Yoris) indicated by the Democratic Unity Platform, a political opposition force, and against whom there were no judicial decisions, was prevented from registering, which is not compatible with the Barbados agreement,” said the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

Likewise, it reiterated that “Brazil is ready” to “cooperate” with the international community so that the elections “constitute a firm step for the normalization of political life and the strengthening of democracy” in Venezuela.

The Colombian government expressed its “concern” about the registration of “some presidential candidacies, particularly regarding the difficulties faced by major opposition sectors such as the Unity Platform and the Vente Venezuela Movement, among others.”

Colombia believes these decisions could “affect the confidence of some sectors of the international community in the transparency and competitiveness of the electoral process that will culminate in the presidential elections.”...

Rafael Hernandez: The Cultural Ties that Bind


The Americans and us: parallel roads?

Imagining relations and their perspectives is not limited to diagnosing micropolitics in Washington or Miami, recording the latest polls, or understanding the psychological profile of the next president and his intentions toward Cuba.

In my younger days, I was not particularly a rock and roll fan. However, I vividly remember that my friends and I “sang” “Rock de la Cárcel” or “Tutti Frutti”; “Rock Around the Clock”, or “See you later, Alligator”; “Put your head on my shoulder” or “Diana.” I say “we sang,” because none of us had the slightest idea what Elvis, Bill Haley and the Comets, or Paul Anka were saying. So we just made up lyrics that sounded like the English words.

By the way, the Spanish versions of Enrique Guzmán, Manolo Muñoz, Luis Bravo, Palito Ortega, or Los Hooligans would soon come to our aid. So “Pink Shoe Laces” would become “Agujetas de color de rosa.” The lyrics of the covers sometimes had nothing to do with the originals. But at least we could scream in Mexican, “El Gordo said to the Cat, this is my chance, no one sees me and I can fight,” without knowing for sure what we were saying.

I remember as if it were today Raúl Gómez and the Astros, or Dany Puga, the fashionable rockers in 1962, giving a concert at the Belisa cinema, in La Lisa. As I said, I wasn’t particularly into rock and roll, so I missed Los Kents or Los Jets, who would come to liven up the late 1960s. As is known, these bands did not appear, of course, on radio and television, nor were The Beatles, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johny Cash, The Mamas and the Papas, The Rolling Stones. Although we did at the parties with the senior high people on Saturday nights, where we danced twist listening to all of them until dawn.

I don’t remember that the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) or the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) came to question us about our musical tastes. I do remember that among the dancers was the secretary of the Young Communist League (UJC) Base Committee, and that the parties with that prohibited music were at the house of the president of the UES (Union of Secondary Students) of the senior high.

Those who were on the radio and TV were the Mustangs, the Bravos, Juan y Junior, Los Brincos, and a whole host of Spanish, Argentine, and Mexican epigones, who could be heard on programs with very high ratings, such as Nocturno (1966).

I confess that to me rock in Spanish, whose hits I sang to my daughter when she was little, and which she and I can still share in favorable family circumstances, did not sound the same to me.

Regarding the presence of U.S. music in the soundtrack of the 1960s, we know that filin is more of a style derived from the great performers of American jazz; and that Los Zafiros and Los Meme, those legendary groups of that time, carried to the surface the genetic code of the fashionable U.S. quartets; the same as the Cuarteto del Rey, which sang spirituals and country songs like “Sixteen Tons,” and where a boy who sang like angels named Pablo Milanés became known. As well as another beginner from that time, who due to his voice, his style and the poetics of his lyrics remembered Bob Dylan, named Silvio Rodríguez.

To see those quartets live, I recommend an Noticiero Icaic (#247, March 1, 1965), in which the main national and international political events of the week were interspersed with “Sabes bien” and “Otro amanecer,” hits from Los Zafiros and Los Meme respectively. The most memorable thing about that Newscast was that it concluded with nothing less than the so-called “Rock Beethoven,” performed by The Beatles in the flesh. Putting something nice followed by something not so pleasant, the editor made a parallel montage between the four Beatles and a band of monkeys playing with musical instruments. Years later, a friend from the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) would tell me that he had gone to the premiere theaters seventeen times that week, just to see, listen to, and jiggle in his seat with the live Beatles show that closed the Newscast. He did not remember, by the way, the images of the monkeys, only the golden opportunity to see his idols accompanied by their fans, breaking out with “roll over Beethoven / and tell Tchaikovsky the news.”

Many years later, I discovered that “Tutti Frutti” was not by Elvis, but by Little Richard; and that the original lyrics in English (“a-wop-bop-a-loon-bop-a-boom-bam-boom”) were as crazy as the one we invented in our Spanglish (“a-uam-ba- buluba-balam-bamboo”), because what mattered was the sound. And that monkey rock, actually titled Roll Over Beethoven,” was not by The Beatles, but by Chuck Berry. For me, that Chuck Berry was a late discovery.

I imagine that he was well-known, however, by Cuban jazz players, who have always been, let’s say, on top of the ball with U.S. music. Thanks to his peculiar electric guitar and the literary imagination of his lyrics, which earned him recognition as the father of rock by John Lennon and Dylan himself, Berry sounded to me like those indistinct memories that one doesn’t know where they come from. I think they were from the jazz-rock and rhythmic blues of the Cuban Modern Music Orchestra (1967), which was all the rage with “Pastilla de menta,” popularized a few years earlier by Ray Charles in his original “One Mint Julep.” In that mythical orchestra I saw for the first time Chucho Valdés, Paquito D’Rivera, the guajiro Mirabal, Leonardo Acosta, Arturo Sandoval, Cachaito, and other recognized jazz players, like later Irakere, who filled the great theaters of Havana with that very American music. Also Cubanized, of course. Like everything else.

If that music has never stopped being part of us, the same has happened with other areas of art and culture.

In those 1960s of our red-hot anti-imperialism, the images of Martí, Fidel, Che, Ho Chi Minh, farmers cutting cane, young soldiers and students painted by Raúl Martínez invaded public art on billboards and murals, with the aesthetics of primary colors distinctive of pop art, which at that same time Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol were cultivating in the United States. The golden age of Cuban posters, a good part of them had the imprint of that pop, avant-garde art (truly) put in function of political denunciation, critic of advertising and mass culture, with an ironic and irreverent tone, in the distinctive works of Humberto Peña, Rostgaard, Frémez.

Watching some of them work in their workshops full of cuttings from magazines and newspapers from all over the world, slides, catalogs from the great museums, photo contacts, collages, lithography stones, was like going up to a lookout point from where you could see beyond the world and particularly the United States. None of the “damn circumstance of water everywhere.”

The living presence of U.S.-origin culture among us includes so many dimensions that I do not have space to address them here in an equally detailed and exemplary manner.

If someone thinks that rock and jazz; the visual arts; the art deco buildings of Old Havana, Centro Habana, El Vedado; the so-called modern dance or Cuban school of ballet, the repertoires of the country’s main theater groups, are part of the tastes of an elite, I want to recall that baseball, evangelical churches, the odd-fellows lodges, spiritualism, the taste for movies and television series are legacies of that exchange, and continue to be a living communicating vessel between the two cultures.

Recognizing it this way does not make these demonstrations any less Cuban. From Fernando Ortiz, what we call Cuban is almost never equivalent to native, as if it were a plant or a species that was already on the island when the Spanish arrived. If we are what Darcy Ribeiro called a new people, it is because we carry genes from other parts, also from there. The same, by the way, as that “house of people” (Martí dixit) that is the American nation (or nations).

In case anyone thinks that familiarity with things American is not an active and organic ingredient of our much-mentioned cultural identity, but rather an atavism of our capitalist past, from which we have been getting rid of, thank God; if they believe that they are remnants that the cultural policy of the Revolution has sought to eradicate, I want to comment that the history of this policy is not so simple.

Although sometimes the allergy to everything that comes from the North has been able to cross into the national interest, as in that censorship of rock in the media, applied in a partial and contradictory way in the 1960s, or during the so-called Gray Five Years (1971-75). A fair examination of these stages reveals that it was never complete or penetrated much into popular culture, then or in later episodes, until today, as I have commented before.

Pulsing with censorship and other cultural keys of politics

Regarding the exhibition policy, in the first half of the 1970s, when 7 out of 10 Cubans went to the movies at least once a week, and we saw more diverse films than anyone else, including films by Sidney Lumet, Mike Nichols, Stuart Rosenberg, Roger Corman, Robert Aldrich, Ralph Nelson, Sam Peckinpah, Francis Ford Coppola, Sydney Pollack, John Huston, Arthur Penn, Alfred Hitchcock, scheduled in all movie theaters in the country.

I mention all this because cultural interflows are not marginal to relations between the two countries. Thinking about these relations, in political terms, only as the fencing between the two governments, is a textbook example of the cultural deficits that affect the understanding of politics among us. This diplocentric vision of relations with the United States, common not only among our cadres, but also among several intellectuals, and which includes, by the way, some who study or advise them on their own, spreads in established media and in social networks.

The cultural and social level of these relations to which I am referring is not reduced to the flow of visitors called people to people. But if we stopped at the groups that arrive under this general license, we would see that they are not only simple citizens but also professionals, company directors, local governments, lawyers from important firms, as well as students, talent seekers, small businesspeople, advertising agents, artists. A group of Americans who have nothing to do with communism, and at the same time very motivated to see with their own eyes the reality of this forbidden island.

Conceiving them as a contingent of tourists attracted by the ineffable beauty of our beaches and sunsets, the son and the mojitos, loaded with dollars and passionate about traveling the boardwalk in a pink convertible Cadillac ignores the main cultural connection that unites us, or that is, sharing a common history. That history, by the way, includes the last sixty years. If for many of them, it was like visiting the Jurassic Park of socialism, for us it is the opportunity for another policy, culturally speaking. Achieving another policy would require that those in charge of serving them as if they were simple visitors or clients could someday be interested in finding out who the hell they are. On the other hand, the social and cultural dynamics of our close encounter involve different agencies. Among these, companies, media, universities, research and development centers, art and entertainment, sports, churches, and other social actors. As an example of their specific weight in relations, for example, during Obama’s short summer, artistic institutions and agencies alone represented 40% of all agreements reached. A good measure of communication and mutual interest, understanding and cooperation, which has not gone through agreements between governments.

Learning from history: five years after Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba

For the most part, the exchanges in all these sectors arose from initiatives on the other side. Our side limited itself to responding, better or worse. If that hopeful interregnum took place at the twilight of the Obama administration, it is unlikely that this reactive pattern has changed.

What are the causes of this imbalance? The first is that our policy towards the United States, in general, has led the black pieces, with chess masters who have known how to play that Sicilian defense very well, by the way. The second is that, instead of playing, most of our institutions tend to become defensive about any action on the U.S. side, more than any other country. Anything that comes from there, no matter if it is far from its government, triggers a complicated protocol. The third — right now the worst: the idea that as long as the United States does not emit clear and distinct signals of change, it is best to stay still; as if it were unrealistic to generate initiatives on this side while the sun of normalization does not shine at around noon.

The attitude of waiting, lighting candles for the least bad candidate, seems to ignore that the interflow between institutions and people on both sides contributes decisively to activating trends that affect the reconfiguration of the political context, both there and here and, consequently, encourage the rapprochement.

I have the memory of a discussion in a very select group of specialists in the United States in the early 1990s when a colleague with vast experience argued that “we should only fight when the correlation of forces favors us.” The change of this mentality towards a proactive attitude implies a less narrow or purely reflexive social, cultural and political vision. So imagining relations and their perspectives is not limited to diagnosing micropolitics in Washington or Miami, recording the latest polls, or the psychological profile of the next president and his secret intentions towards Cuba. A comprehensive and broader vision could contribute to a different understanding of the circumstances between the two sides, and to facilitate actions outside of diplomacy between governments, apparently frozen.

Paradoxically, the common codes between the respective cultures and societies, born from history and geographical proximity, give Americans and Cubans a comparative advantage in understanding each other, much greater, let’s say, than those existing with Vietnam, South Africa, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and others that U.S. politics gets along well with. These same affinities should enable us to identify interlocutors and manage associations.

It is impractical to set goals a priori or unilaterally, without having come into contact, and to prepare to work to clear up the ignorance prevailing here and there about the other. There is a cultural problem there, not simply an ideological or political one. As a Chinese strategy professor once told me: “Two-thirds of the way is for them (the Americans) to understand us. We are the ones in charge of explaining it to them.” Not to convince them of our ideas, to get them to share them, naturally. Just that they understand us. Isn’t that what culture means?

Regarding the legitimate and reasonable concern for national security, we must recognize the different conditions under which these relations operate today and, in particular, the close communication that binds us. In the era of artificial intelligence, social media, and circular migration, control over everything that flies requires other methods. And maybe it’s not about trying to control everything. It is not effective, it produces obstacles that limit us in what we want to achieve.

Protecting national culture is not about using a condom, because neither ideology nor culture allows for condoms — assuming it made any sense to use them to avoid certain perceived threats.

I often tell my students that the main eventual challenge in our relations with the United States (and with the world) would be if one night, unexpectedly, the blockade were lifted and true normalization was imposed. Because we’ve never had to deal with that scenario.

After the initial rejoicing over the raising of the U.S. flag in the until then Interests Section and the visit of President Obama, the effects of an eventual American tsunami worried some at the top and also many at the bottom. In 2016, more than a million visitors from the North invaded the streets of Havana and other cities. Suddenly, we had a kind of anticipatory flash of what was to come when the blockade was lifted.

As Sun Tzu recommended, the first thing to protect national interest is to walk with our eyes wide open about what we have around us, near us, and in our own people. Some worry, not without reason, about the impregnation of cultural globalization among us, with its alienating elements, characterized as manipulations foreign to the most authentic values of our identity. Although I share the concern to a certain extent, we must not forget, at the same time, that self and other people are not as delineated as they used to be, just as they are not delineated outside and inside.

Before I mentioned a list of American filmmakers who made movies that we were able to see in movie theaters during the Gray Five Year Period. Recently, thanks to a researcher friend, I was able to review the catalog of films shown on our TV channels between 2020 and 2022.

In that last year alone, 3,308 films were released, of which 1,842 were from the United States; that is, 55.68% of all the movies that viewers saw. The analysis of this programming, surely explainable with copyright arguments, etc., would entail an examination taking into account genres, authors, dates and quality of the films. In any case, during those three years, we Cubans saw, on state TV alone, 5,628 American films. Although there has been progress in terms of balance, since in 2021 the cinema of that country had reached 70%, and in 2020, 77% of all programming.

Of course, this very high concentration of U.S. movies, compared to the 1960s, is not a Cuban peculiarity; and at the same time, it would be desirable to have audiovisual diversity, especially on state TV, that balances the personalized consumption offered by countless services that sell all types of series and audiovisual products under license, and other suppliers, such as El paquete (The Package), Mochila (The Backpack), etc. While some researchers are encouraged to carry out this study, and others could do the same with music, access to Internet websites, etc., it is obvious that if the U.S. tsunami has not occurred, that tide that reaches our ankles is already part of the Cuban reality of today.

The echoes of the most prestigious and oldest jazz event in Cuba are still alive, where musicians from several countries met again, the presence of a greater number of musicians from the United States than in Trump’s gray quadrennium could illustrate what I was pointing out about parallel currents that do not cease between both sides. Giving them the attention they deserve, to facilitate and expand them as bridges of understanding and collaboration is the most imminent challenge. To do so, we do not have to wait for “the correlation of forces to favor us” or for the god of harmony to enter through a window in his Batmobile.

Instead of wasting away on futile predictions, pessimistic or optimistic, we should pay attention to that aphorism of the philosopher Chuck Berry: “You never can tell.”

Rafael Hernández

Rafael Hernández

Politólogo, profesor, escritor. Autor de libros y ensayos sobre EEUU, Cuba, sociedad, historia, cultura. Dirige la revista Temas.

Rafael Hernandez: The Double Standard of Human Rights

Human rights and sanctions: two sticks

Should countries subject their agreements and cooperation to political and legislative changes that undermine the rights of disadvantaged groups?

by Rafael Hernandez 

March 18, 2024 

Orginal Spanish text

The current that raises once again the old anti-communist slogan of toughening policy towards the island and conditioning relations to this or that, in Europe or in Washington, believes it has found in the current Cuban crisis the right moment to tighten the screws. 

Is it possible that they have not learned how their double standards are processed on the side over here? What is its real effect on openness, reforms, democratization? Have they not looked in the mirror?

Let's take as an example what Amnesty International (AI) says, let's say, about Spain . AI says that the eradication of violence against women has made progress, but it remains a critical problem; that the treatment of prisoners, sometimes inhuman and degrading, includes practices classified as torture. And it puts its finger on the reception of immigrants, where the capacity of the established order to respond to the human security of those who aspire to a better life is tested. 

Should Latin American and Caribbean countries subject their agreements and cooperation with that country to making political and legislative changes that undermine the rights of these disadvantaged groups? Would it be the most effective way to achieve desirable progress? 

As for giving an example to Cuba, I imagine what would have happened here if fifty years after the dictatorship overthrown in 1959, the thousands of dead of that regime had not received justice and reparation, had not been vindicated by the courts or been in many cases knew for sure where they were buried; and where those guilty of “extrajudicial executions”, torture, arbitrary imprisonment, had not been tried. If almost half a century later a Fulgencio Batista Foundation were maintained, and a law that prevents any judicial process for human rights violations committed during that regime, sealing the impunity of the repressors. Or if the exaltation of Batistato had been reborn in political organizations that celebrate him as a hero, the architect of modern Cuba, whom international communism has unjustly vilified. And, above all, some invoked it as a transition model to guide countries victims of totalitarianism along the path of freedom and democracy. 

Let's imagine that instead of being the country in Latin America and the Caribbean with the closest cooperative relations, political-diplomatic alliances and collaboration with Africa, its treatment of Africans who arrived in Cuba were described as serious violations of human rights . 

Let's think if every time a delegation from our countries visited Madrid or Brussels they asked that Catalan politicians convicted for political reasons, or imprisoned Basque independentists and anarchists, be at the conversation table. 

Although some MEPs are proud of their European supremacy, 40% of Spaniards do believe that there are political prisoners in their country; and 57%, that preventive detention is abused, according to a survey by the Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia. 

As the well-known Spanish visual artist Santiago Sierra, whose work in favor of political prisoners has been censored, says, the approval of the Citizen Security Law, or “ Gag Law ”, covers opinions and acts of disobedience as crimes, such as, for example, the attempts to collectively paralyze evictions, multiplying complaints and sanctions for resistance to authority.” And it is known that the application of article 155 of the Constitution against the self-determination referendum called in Catalonia unleashed a wave of arrests that led elected representatives to prison or exile.

However, when you ask the politicians there, they say that theirs “are not political prisoners at all.” And they clarify that "in a democracy there are no political prisoners", so in Spain "there have not been any for many years." Or even better: “ There are no political prisoners here, but political prisoners .” If Mario Moreno had been Minister of Justice, he would not have said it better. 

Given that the European Parliament does not vote to condition relations with Israel on the cessation of the Gaza massacre; that the Sahrawi fighters imprisoned by Morocco remain incommunicado, without adequate medical care, tortured and held thousands of kilometers from their families, while no one in Brussels seems to care ; that Tunisia does not allow a delegation of MEPs to enter and nothing happens either; that cases of murdered journalists, of contingents of poor people displaced by the violence of organized crime that some States fail to control, proliferate in other countries; Since the victims of police violence in the US reach record numbers in 2023 without the official European institutions opening their mouths, how can we explain the application of such a selective standard to what is happening in Cuba?  

This propensity is not only the work of right-wing parties. Other actors enthusiastically contribute to ensuring that political organizations do not measure themselves by their own yardstick. They are those who, by mouth, promote dialogue, freedom of expression, the debate of ideas, the free circulation of information, pluralism, and at the same time carefully exclude those who express approaches that do not coincide with their ideology or line. editorial. Let's say, when a newspaper like El País or Washington Post, and some press agencies based in Havana decide which authors or which “political analyzes” they publish, giving a perfect example of that asymmetry. 

I wonder what it would be like if the most high-profile political commentators on China, Vietnam, Russia, Pakistan, India, Brazil, Colombia, in the mainstream media, were exiles from those countries, who identified themselves as activists against those governments, and whose texts They would dedicate themselves to denying or ignoring everything that could be considered valuable and recognizable. And of course I am not referring to the academy that studies Cuba elsewhere, but to what is spread in the most influential newspapers and media in the formation of international public opinion. 

Recapitulating all of the above, I draw attention to three issues. 

The first, that when some judge the real deficiencies, problems, errors and clumsiness of Cuban policies, they tend to apply a logic that, deep down and increasingly openly, rather objects to the very nature of the system. 

Can democratic exercises in our region and beyond be paradigmatic?

As most observers recognize, today's democracies are no more credible, nor do they function better, nor are they more popular than many authoritarian regimes, in Latin America and the Caribbean, and also in Asia, right now. Of course, this does not mean justifying any form of dictatorship, authoritarianism or populism, especially in regions with a record of dictatorships like ours. However, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), democracy in our part of the world has fallen more since 2008 (-10%) than anywhere else. 

Except in Chile and Uruguay, according to the EIU, perfect, “hybrid” authoritarian regimes and “imperfect democracies” constitute the majority. The imperfect refers to Brazil, Colombia and Argentina; and hybrids, Peru, Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras... If you know what has been happening in those countries in recent years, you will see how democracy, oligarchic concentration and large-scale corruption are taking place.  

Comparatively, says EIU, where democracy has fallen the least is in Asia (-2.1%), a region where regimes described as authoritarian prosper, such as China, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia ...

It seems that, adhering to the same parameters, actually existing democracies do not achieve more credibility or respond better than many authoritarians, in terms of human security, equity, poverty reduction, prosperity, access to education and health. 

The second issue refers to the belief that imposing conditions, punishments, isolation, pressure or, as they would say in Old Havana, “putting your foot in” those regimes of an authoritarian nature, we achieve greater influence to reach compromises and, at the same time, long, behavioral changes, that through dialogue and constructive engagement. 

US policies towards Cuba are a long experiment of error-trial-error-error-more trial-more error that demonstrates not only the ineffectiveness, but the counterproductive effect of that variant. President Obama's recognition of this effect should be sufficiently demonstrative, because of "confession of parties, release of evidence."

Before him, the European Union recognized this, by discarding the so-called “common position” in 2016 . The Italian historian Carlo Mario Cipolla formulated it in his third law of human stupidity: “A behavior is stupid if it causes harm to others without obtaining any gain, or, even worse, causing harm to itself in the process.” 

The third is that “putting your foot in” and calling on the other instead of dialogue and commitment has repercussions within the besieged, in their politics and their society, inside and outside. This is because it contributes to reinforcing extremism of all colors, to clouding and festering the zipizape above dialogue, to facilitating the hijacking of the debate by the desire for protagonism, the exchange of ideas by charlatanry, reasoning by speculation, the defense of the national interest through the mentality of a besieged fortress.

I am thinking now of some Cuban problems, not derived from the blockade or the USSR, but contaminated by harassment, which hampers their understanding and in-depth debate. Let's say, corruption.

If I had the evidence and time, it would be worth trying.