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The Cuban Wishing Tree

  • jul 28, 201221:27h
  • 4 comentarios

The desperate situation of the Cuban people right now is leading to reasoning to which I want to draw attention.

I think it’s very dangerous to substitute, for a demand for democracy — which I recognize runs the risk of sounding too abstract — demands for specific things: Internet for all, Travel and Immigration Reform, a glass of milk for everyone. That is, to decide whether it is better for us to ask the government to authorize its citizens to connect to the ADSL cable from Venezuela, or if, instead, a demand for travel and immigration reform might have a better chance of moving forward… things like these. (In fact, we know that without true democracy — or even with it — the Internet can always be censored and the much-vaunted “Migratory Reform,” if it happens, will always have exceptions).

I want to illustrate this with an anecdote from the “Chinese model.” I read recently that the sociologist Gerard Lemos won approval from the Chinese Communist Party to launch an initiative in Chongqing, the municipality of the recently ousted political neo-Maoist Bo Xilai, which consisted of the following: a “Wishing Tree” where people hung anonymous ballots that had previously been distributed with a questionnaire about the concerns and aspirations of the people. And they handled it cleverly: the “wishing tree” is an Asiatic tradition — like our ceiba tree; there was a commission to analyze the ballots; the procedure was an intelligence-gathering project too, etc.

The results of the survey give us pause. People weren’t asking for democracy or anything like it. They were looking for basic security in their daily lives, access to health, education and land rights. They also wanted to return to the Confucian model of the stable family, which is seen to be in crisis with drug use, prostitution and debt.

Let’s imagine for a moment the requests that would be hung on an eventual Cuban “Ceiba of Desires.” I suspect that with the erosion of our civil society, the demand for democratic political change would be overwhelmed by the populism of “little desires.”

And if, in search of a greater pragmatism, the Cuban opposition allows itself to be deflected from the path of reform by specific demands that cover everything that is wrong on the island, we will lose something essential — and we will also have to compete, and at a disadvantage, with the government’s own discourse, their slippery rhetoric.

It is true that we must continue to press for the promised reforms that never come, but we also have to go beyond that: to defend democracy, however abstract it may seem. To defend civil and political rights in a democratic framework that can only be achieved with a radical change in the system. This is, in my opinion, the great merit of recent alternative projects on the island such as Estado de SATS or the videos of Eliécer Avila, entitled “Un Cubano más.”

It could cost us in terms of consensus. A literacy policy always requires more time and effort than populism. But my experience in this regard is that after five decades of the Castro regime people have so much inertia — and so much fear — that they are not taking to the streets for specific demands. Idealism, or at least a certain dose of it, continues to be required to get people mobilized. Let’s go for Change, not for changes.

Ernesto Hernández Busto
Barcelona

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Comentarios

  • Anónimo dice:

    Este artículo de PD es excelente, inspirado y bien escrito, felicidades!

  • aarón dice:

    Me parece que esa estrategia es bastante parecida al llamado de los comunistas a la clase obrera a luchar por “el poder” y “no por migajas”. Es decir por el todo y no por el gradualismo. El peligro que veo de una actitud de todo o nada en Cuba es que la Historia demostró que mediante el gradualismo la clase obrera obtuvo más.

  • cundejo cojo dice:

    esto es para los que hablan ingles…?????