Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cultural Exchanges and a Democratic Transition / Estado de Sats, Antonio G. Rodiles

    Cultural Exchanges and a Democratic Transition / Estado de Sats, Antonio
    G. Rodiles
    Estado de Sats / State of Sats, Translator: Unstated

    On Saturday March 3 we had a meeting at Estado de SATS regarding
    cultural and academic exchanges between Cuba and the United States. The
    panel consisted of the philosopher Alexis Jardines who participated by
    video-recording, political analysts Julio Aleaga Pesant and Miriam
    Celaya, and Charles Barclay deputy head of the United States Interests
    Section in Havana. Over the two hours that we debated this issue,
    fraught with multiple twists and turns, we generated an intense and
    respectful dialogue that we hope will soon proliferate in our country.

    The reaction of State Security was swift: an organized police operation
    in the surrounding streets to intimidate the participants as they
    departed once the meeting ended, and the almost simultaneous publication
    of several comments on the internet full of lies and false conclusions.

    Why the rejection and fear around Cubans discussing our reality, and
    particularly on such an important topic?

    The answer is undoubtedly in the nature of the system itself, in the
    difficult context is it facing, and in the absence of resources to
    maneuver given that the country is totally ruined. Every day it becomes
    clearer that the cosmetic changes initiated by Raul Castro can do little
    to revive an economy that needs an injection of billions of dollars, or
    to revitalize a governing party that has no roots or legitimacy among
    the population. The fatal illness of Hugo Chavez, his principal ally,
    becomes an extremely inopportune element faced with an unpredictable
    electoral process, which puts in danger the more than 100,000 barrels of
    oil Cuba receives daily, without no sign of a possible replacement. With
    values exceeding $100 per barrel, the Cuban government once again finds
    itself on the edge of the abyss.

    On the other hand, the investments from other countries, such as Brazil
    and China, are clearly directed at bettering future relations between
    the island and the United States, which remain at a complete standstill
    due to, among other things, the refusal to release the contractor Alan
    Gross and the inability to take concrete steps in the direction of
    political reform.

    This difficult scenario forces the Cuban government to restart an
    offensive to convince that neighboring country to ease its trade
    sanctions, or at least to ease restrictions on travel by American
    tourists. To accomplish this will require persuading the many who
    distrust the ability of the current government to carry out major
    economic and political changes. Within this strategy of "soft power,"
    academic and cultural diplomacy play a major role. By the same logic,
    the radius of influence for political actors who support the transition
    to a democratic system, both within and outside the island, must be
    reduced to a minimum. Time is running out and the elite needs to
    consolidate its corroded power as quickly at possible, in order to
    reshape itself to maintain its position, regardless of future changes.

    Academic and cultural exchanges are extremely important to call on all
    the human capital that has escaped our country in a stampede, and to
    permit the free flow of information and knowledge that characterizes
    today's world. But they cannot become a tool to legitimize a government
    that has destroyed our nation. These cultural exchanges could be called
    upon to become an indispensable ingredient in the transition to
    democracy, but this will only happen if Cuban civil society and the
    diaspora intersect, this must be the fundamental challenge.

    Cuban civil society is in a period of resurgence that obliges us not
    only to exercise our rights, but also to do so with the greatest
    possible rigor.

    Civil society's demand to play the role genuinely belonging to it,
    greatly irritates the powers-that-be, especially considering that for 53
    years the same group of individuals has assumed absolute monopoly over
    words, faces, and logic and, above all, counts on the power of force to
    prevent, at any price, Cubans from demanding another choice of
    government. The absurd accusations that seek to personally discredit
    everyone who dissents, the use of cynicism and deceit as irreplaceable
    tools, are demonstrations of the primitive and senile vision of this
    group clinging to the past, clinging to totalitarianism, refusing to
    accept that time is relentless.

    The highest representative of this policy has been and is Fidel Castro,
    an individual whose hand has never trembled when he has imposed it, be
    it even to crush the life out of a human being (examples abound). I do
    not know the individuals employed in these media campaigns of rage and
    hysteria, but what is left is to invite them to understand that Cuba
    will inevitably change; it is just a question of time and circumstances
    until this so long-awaited rearrangement occurs, and I remind them that
    each human being is responsible for his own actions, a reality that
    should not be forgotten.

    From our activism, we have no option other than to continue working on
    the transition to a democratic society, where the power of a few is
    never again imposed by force on the rights of an entire nation.

    Note: I just read about Abel Prieto's new assignment as an adviser to
    Raul Castro. Events will tell whether this move is consistent with the
    strategy set out above.

    6 March 2012