Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Has D-Day Arrived?

    Has D-Day Arrived?
    YOANI SÁNCHEZ, La Habana | Diciembre 17, 2014

    Today has been one of those days we imagine a thousand ways, but never
    as it finally happened. You prepare for a date on which you can
    celebrate the end, hug your friends who return home, wave a flag in the
    middle of the street, but D-Day is late. Instead, events arrive in
    fragments, an advance here, a loss there. With no cries of “Long live
    free Cuba,” nor uncorked bottles. Life obscures from us this turning
    point that we would mark forever on our calendars.

    The announcement by the governments of Cuba and the United States of the
    reestablishments of diplomatic relations surprises us in the midst of
    signs that pointed in the opposite direction, and also of exhausted
    hopes. Raúl Castro just postponed the third round of talks with the
    European Union, scheduled for next month, and this December 10
    repression fell heavily on activists, as it does every International
    Human Rights Day.

    The first surprise was that, in the midst of the official bluster, of a
    certain turn of the ideological screw expressed in calls to redouble our
    guard against the enemy, the Plaza of the Revolution and the White House
    had been in talks for 18 months. Clear evidence that all this discourse
    of intransigence was just for show. While they made the island’s
    citizens believe that even to cross the threshold of the United States
    Interest Section in Havana turned them into traitors to the homeland,
    the leaders in their olive-green were working out agreements with Uncle
    Sam. The deceits of politics!

    On the other hand, both Obama’s statements, as well as Castro’s, had a
    hint of capitulation. The US president announced a long list of
    moderating measures to bring the two nations closer, before the coveted
    and greatly demanded steps of democratization and political opening in
    our country would be achieved. The dilemma of what should have come
    first, a gesture from Havana or flexibility from Washington, has just
    been answered. However, the fig leaf of the American embargo remains, so
    that no one can say the resignation as been complete.

    Raul Castro, for his part, limited himself to announcing the new
    gestures from Obama and referring to the exchange of Alan Gross and
    other prisoners of interest of the American government. However, in his
    address before the national television cameras, he gave no evidence of
    any agreement or compromise from the Cuban side, aside from the
    reestablishment of diplomatic relations. The agenda on the far side of
    the Florida Straits we know in detail, but the internal one remains, as
    it so often does, hidden and secret.

    Still, despite the absence of public commitments on the part of Cuba,
    today was a political defeat. Under the leadership of Fidel Castro we
    would have never even reached an outline of an agreement of this nature.
    Because the Cuban system is supported by – as one of its main pillars –
    the existence of a permanent rival. David can’t live without Goliath and
    the ideological apparatus has depended too long on this dispute.

    Do I listen to speeches or buy fish?

    In the central market of Carlos III, customers were surprised midday
    that the big TVs were not broadcasting football or videoclips, but a
    speech by Raúl Castro and later one by Obama through the Telesur
    network. The first allocution caused a certain astonishment, but the
    second was accompanied by kisses launched toward the face of the US
    president, particularly when he mentioned relaxations in the sending of
    remittances to Cuba and the delicate topic of telecommunications. Now
    and again the cry of “I LOVE…” (in English!) could be heard from around
    the corner.

    It is important to also say that the news had fierce competition, like
    the arrival of fish to the rationed market, after years of
    disappearance. However, by mid-afternoon almost everyone was aware and
    the shared feelings were of joy, relief, hope.

    This, however, is just the beginning. Lacking is a public timeline by
    which commits the Cuban government to a series of gestures in support of
    democratization and respect for differences. We must take advantage of
    the synergy of both announcements to extract a public promise, which
    must include, at a minimum, four consensus points that civil society
    has been developing in recent months.

    The release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience; the
    end of political repression; the ratification of the United Nations
    covenants on Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and
    the consequent adjustment of domestic laws; and the recognition of Cuban
    civil society within and outside the island. Extracting these
    commitments would begin the dismantling of totalitarianism.

    As long as steps of this magnitude are not taken, many of us will
    continue to think that the day we have longed for is not close. So, we
    will keep the flags tucked away, keep the corks in the bottles, and
    continue to press for the final coming of D-Day.

    Translated by Maria Jo Porter

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