If you take a cold look at the Cuban opposition, take your preferences out of the equation, and try to assess what it means as a political force, what do you see? In my opinion, it’s a collection of exceedingly brave people who have set forth a strong ideological alternative, but who are not well known in Cuba (or are known by the public to be penetrated by Cuban intelligence), and who – with the exception of the often-derided Varela Project petition drive – do not engage in retail politics and hence do not amount to an opposition movement in the sense that they lead or mobilize Cubans in political action. That’s not meant by way of criticism, but I do think it accurately describes their state of development.
The author, Jaime Leygonier, writes a highly critical assessment of the opposition’s problems – those that have nothing to do, he says right up front, with the repression it faces. In fact, he says, opposition leaders “seem more boxed in by their own limitations than by those the regime imposes on them.”
- They are “so concentrated within themselves that they negate themselves as leaders, which is to say, as guides of followers.”
- They are “known abroad but with little influence in Cuban society.”
- “One could say that the opposition is waiting for things to happen by themselves. But if things happen by themselves, who needs them for anything?”
- “What social influence do they [the dissidents] count on that would lead the government leadership [la cúpula] to grant them an atom of power…If the leadership would decide on a change or, surely, the illusion of change or reforms as it has pretended many times, it doesn’t need them for anything.”
Leygonier offers some reasons to be skeptical about the prospects of reform under Raul – a good antidote to what I have written. He leads me to think that if reforms are realized, the opposition’s reaction will be interesting to watch.