There is a practice of exclusion in Cuban political culture that is really remarkable.
When I see it, I recall the remark often attributed to President Reagan, that an 80 percent friend is not a 20 percent enemy. The practice of descalificación turns that idea on its head, where disagreement in one area can become the basis for never talking to, listening to, or dealing with a person ever again.
Certainly the Cuban government has long engaged in this form of symbolic banishment by claiming that its opponents represent a foreign agenda, a foreign enemy, and are barely Cuban.
Sometimes its opponents (both on and off the island) engage in a variation of the same thing. The political risk would seem to be higher for opponents who, after all, have not been in power for five decades and whose success must depend on processes of addition rather than subtraction and exclusion.
These thoughts came to mind last spring when I read perhaps the loopiest thing ever written about the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. In this column, political scientist Carlos Moore dumps on a number of Cuban Americans who lamented Zapata’s death. Using not one iota of evidence,
Read it for yourself. In the end the column isn’t very instructive, except perhaps to explain why a single party has been comfortably in power in
The same applies to much of the reaction to the very interesting letter that those 74 Cubans, including leading dissidents, bloggers, and civil society figures, wrote in support of an end to
You have seen the reaction from
In this radio interview, talk show host Ninoska Perez hammers Guillermo Farinas, a signer of the letter, about his support for a bill that would, in addition to permitting travel, extend loans to the Cuban government. She returns to this point time and again, and Farinas isn’t prepared for it, because it is a complete falsehood. (More on that here.)
Taken together, it’s a mix of repudiation and condescencion at Cubans who expressed an opinion contrary to what seems to be part of the civic religion of hard-line
Even though much of the dust has already settled, I’ll add a few things.
- If the point of U.S. policy is to help Cubans, what could possibly be wrong with learning what Cubans in
- In the past, the line has been that dissidents themselves can decide on the risks they take when it comes to political activity, accepting resources from the
, appearing on Radio Marti, etc. Now that they are speaking out in favor of freedom to travel, we are told that they should be shielded from discussions of American policy. Give me a break. United States
- If unrestricted travel is such a bad thing, why is there no effort – none whatsoever – by the Cuban American community or its representatives to stop their own people from traveling to
- Why should it be surprising that Cuban dissidents, who view freedom to travel as a universal right, would argue that no government – in
, or anywhere – has any business abridging that right? Havana, Washington
- And why should it be surprising that dissidents would argue that an end to
restrictions would destroy the “spurious justification” that Cuban officials use to support U.S. ’s restrictions? Cuba
- Politics aside, can anyone imagine any group of Cubans, open and friendly by nature, saying they want foreign visitors kept out of their country?
- Are we to expect that Cubans, alone in history among all peoples who have lived under communism, yearn for their country to be cut off from the outside world?
My guess is that part of the sting of this letter comes from the fact that hunger striker Guillermo Farinas is among the signatories. Farinas, who reportedly stopped eating in February and has been in and out of hospitals ever since, is pressing for release of political prisoners. Internationally, he has been a hero and the rallying point for that cause ever since the death of Zapata Tamayo. As soon as suggestions were being made that some of the signers didn’t know what they were signing, Farinas gave El Nuevo Herald a very clear explanation of his reasons. In the interview with Ninoska Perez cited above, he also stuck to his guns. One of his reasons was that if Americans are allowed to travel freely to
On top of that, there are the bloggers who have provided minute-by-minute information about Zapata and Farinas. They signed too.
So did many others whose bona fides as defenders of human rights is beyond question. Gisela Delgado comes to mind, a woman whose Vedado home housed an independent library; she was left alone in it one morning in the spring of 2003 when the library was ransacked and her husband Hector Palacios taken away to jail.
An important sector of Cuban Miami now seems to be telling people like these to take a hike.
The clash with el exilio has overshadowed the purpose of the letter, which was directed at American legislators, whose reaction remains to be seen.