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What People Are We Talking About?

What People Are We Talking About? / Dimas Castellanos
Posted on February 1, 2016

Dimas Castellanos, 18 January 2016 — A commentary on five foreign policy
issues raised by the Cuban president, Raul Castro, on December 29, 2015
during the closing session of the National Assembly of People’s Power.

1. Since 2015 there have been benefits from mutually advantageous,
cooperative relationships with various countries, particularly the
Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

True, but these benefits are the result of a relationship that does not
follow the normal laws of commerce. The reduction or total loss of
Venezuelan petroleum subsidies and its impact on Cuba would be a repeat
of what happened with subsidies from the former Soviet Union. Both
examples illustrate the impossibility of sustaining an economy that is
not self-supporting and the government’s inability to learn from past
lessons. The cold, hard fact is that events in Venezuela help explain
the real cause of the reported decline in GDP in 2015.

2. At the close of the last regular session of the National Assembly, I
noted that an imperialist and oligarchic offensive has been launched
against progressive Latin American revolutionary undertakings, which our
people will challenge with determination.

We are sure that new victories will come to the Bolivarian and Chavez
Revolution under the leadership of Comrade Maduro against the constant,
destabilizing onslaught from the right, encouraged and supported by
outside forces.

We rely on the commitment of the Venezuela’s revolutionaries and its
people, overwhelmingly Bolivarian and Chavista, to follow the legacy of
the unforgettable President Hugo Chavez.

We are convinced that the Venezuelan people, as they did in 2002, and
the civil-military alliance will not allow the achievements of the
Revolution to be dismantled and will know how to turn this setback into

Cuba will always stand beside the Fatherland of Simon Bolivar and call
for an international mobilization to defend the sovereignty and
independence of Venezuela, and for acts of interference in its internal
affairs to cease.

To claim that what has occurred in Venezuela is the result of an
imperialist offensive is to sidestep the incompetency demonstrated by
the Chavez regime. The use of a substantial portion of the bonanza
generated by the high price of petroleum in order to export Bolivarian
populism to the region instead of using it to diversify an economy
entirely dependent on the production of oil only proves this point. The
obsession for expansion over diversification has had a greater negative
impact than any “imperialist offensive” in creating the disastrous
situation in which this South American country finds itself.

To say that events there will be confronted by “our people” is to deny
that the majority of Venezuelans, after supporting Chavez for years,
cast a protest vote. Given this situation, one must ask the following
questions. What people are we talking about? Do the millions of
Venezuelans who voted for the opposition candidates not also make up the
people? Who and what criteria define who the people are? When were “our
people” asked to challenge the decision by those categorized as non-people?

Suggesting that new victories will come to the Bolivarian revolution led
by Maduro, evoking commitments by revolutionaries to the legacy of
Chavez and ignoring the popular will as expressed at the polls is a
manifestation of interference in the internal affairs of another
country, something that the government of Cuba has always accused the
United States of doing.

All indications are that what occurred there could occur here if truly
democratic elections were held. It seems, however, that the takeaway
lesson is to postpone once again any step that could lead to
democratization. The great danger is that without democratization there
will be no solution to the numerous and serious problems facing Cuban
society. Nevertheless, the process underway is unstoppable, especially
given the change in mentality that is occurring among Cubans since
diplomatic relations have been restored with our neighbor to the north.
Democratization will come one way or another, but it will come. Trying
to stop it is a march against history, against the winds of change
sweeping through the region, against the destiny of the Cuban nation.
And therefore it will fail in the end.

3. The proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of
peace by all the heads of state at the second CELAC summit, which took
place in Havana in January 2014, is a solid basis for developing
relations between our countries and internationally.

At this conclave the Cuban president stated, “For years our region has
been a zone free of nuclear arms… but we believe that is not enough. We
believe it is necessary for the region’s heads of state and heads of
government to formally agree that any difference, any conflict, shall
always be resolved through the dialogue of negotiation and that it will
never end in threats or the use of force.”

Contrary to these emotional words, the decision to challenge the results
of democratic elections in Venezuela could lead to civil war. Then the
declaration of Latin American and Caribbean countries as a zone of peace
would be nothing more than an empty slogan if these nations do not
renounce the domestic use of violence. It would reveal a lack of
political will to achieve it whenever peace is threatened by
revolutionary populism.

4. As indicated in the Declaration of the Revolutionary Government,
published on December 1, the “wet foot dry foot” policy, the Parole
Program for Cuban doctors and the Cuban Adjustment Act remain the
principal incentives driving the abnormally high level of emigration
from Cuba to the United States.

The principal incentives are not US policies. For one action to be the
cause of another, it has to precede it. The massive and continuous
exodus that has turned Cuba from a country to which people immigrated to
one from which people emigrated began in 1959, before these policies
even existed. The real cause is the nature of the totalitarian system
itself, which — while depriving Cubans of their civil liberties — has
been unable to develop a viable economy capable of satisfying the basic
needs of its citizens.

Beyond the impact that the prolonged conflict between the two
governments might have had, it is only logical that there would be
migration from a country with a poor economy to one with the most
advanced economy in the world.

Given this reality, the only thing that could halt the exodus would be a
structural transformation capable of guaranteeing Cubans’ basic needs,
something that ideological entrenchment prevents.

The best proof of this is the increasing emigration from other parts of
the world to destination countries which have not adopted anything even
resembling the Cuban Adjustment Act. People simply move from areas where
conditions are bad to where they are better, something that even certain
species of animals do, including migratory birds, who do not relocate
because of some “wet wing–dry wing” policy.

Also, the United States is not the principal country to which doctors
are fleeing. They have to be recertified there, which involves paying
for licensing exams and getting by until they are granted permission to
practice medicine.

The only doctors going to the United States are those willing to work at
anything or the few cases in which family members assume the costs of
recertification. A bigger factor in the exodus of doctors is the fifty
thousand physicians rented out to other parts of the world, a situation
in which the level of exploitation is not difficult for them to understand.

5. We have reiterated that, in order to normalize bilateral relations,
the government of the United States must lift the embargo and the
seizure of territory occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base without
insisting that Cuba abandon the cause of independence or renounce the
principles and ideals for which several generations of Cubans have
fought for a century and a half.

As stated, these demands are not feasible. Once bilateral relations have
been reestablished, solutions must be sought through bilateral
negotiation. If the Cuban government does not want to make concessions
to a foreign government, it must make concessions to its people, who are
denied means of expression, institutions, rights and freedoms.

If it acts in this way, it would strengthen the position of the US
president, who has demonstrated a willingness to move towards full
normalization of relations with Cuba, weaken the position of the members
of Congress opposed to lifting the embargo and advance the goal much
more quickly than by levelling accusations and condemnations through the
United Nations. More than ever, the solution ultimately depends on the
course of conduct the government of Cuba decides to follow.

Originally published in Diario de Cuba

Source: What People Are We Talking About? / Dimas Castellanos |
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