Thursday, September 20, 2007

The opposition

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.

If you think that is harsh, look at this opinion from a Cuban independent journalist published on Miscelaneas de Cuba, a web-based magazine published in Sweden. Yes, Sweden.

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 c├║pula] 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.

3 comments: said...

Since I can't read Spanish, I'll take your word for the translations.

Do they separate Oswaldo Paya out of the pack? He is not like the other dissidents who meet with the US Interests Section and take money from Washington and Miami.

So, I might agree with this article if they are talking about Beatriz Roque and others loosely associated with her.

With that said, if the dissidents were any more active, they would be in jail.

Why don't you add that to the analysis?

Mambi_Watch said...

The opposition in Cuba is interesting and unique, just like the nation itself, and when compared to other pro-democracy movements around the world.

The obvious answer here is the unique national character of Cuba, despite its very familiar totalitarian system of government.

But, most pro-democracy movements across the globe behave very differently. Most are very confrontational with their oppressive government, despite repeated violent assaults against them and systematic surveillance. The most successful ones eventually make significant political gains within a decade, despite being repeatedly crushed.

The Cuban opposition is not at all like this. Phil Peter writes that the opposition "do not amount to an opposition movement in the sense that they lead or mobilize Cubans in political action." This has some truth in it.

Compared to other pro-democracy movements, the Cuban opposition has failed miserably in gaining some kind of significant attention inside the island. Even the most poor and oppressed movements get some kind of population support for democratic reforms.

Also, if you take notice, Cuban opposition groups, like the Varela Project, spend considerable time in highlighting RECONCILIATION. That's a concept that I'm sure most pro-democracy movements around the world don't pay attention to at all, especially when they are being oppressed. But, eventually face it after some political changes.

And, the political mobilization that the Cuban opposition does plan is made up of small steps (mostly petitions) calling for constitutional changes. Not boycotts, rallies or mass protests.

In my opinion, one of the most damaging effects that the Cuban opposition has faced comes from Miami.

For example, Oswaldo Paya is considered a traitor by hard-liners because he's seen as too soft (his petitions are seen as meaningless). On the other hand, Miami hard-liners (who happen to be the ones that get most US funds) support tougher opponents like Marta Beatriz Roque, and thus help create divisions in the internal Cuban opposition. Other hard-line positions from Miami have also contributed to several divisions when it comes to the embargo, travel rights, and a future transition.

Leygonier presents very important internal criticisms of the Cuban opposition, but we must not forget that the success of the opposition depends on FULL solidarity from Cuban exiles, with actions to create solidarity, not division.

Anonymous said...

The opposition in Cuba is essential for the progress of our Nation if and only if it behaves as a loyal opposition. Just in that way they can achieve legitimacy. We need a movement aware of the corruptions of our government, ready to fight again its excesses and that propose policies for the improvement of the living standard of All the citizens. The hysterical calls from the Miami hard core in favor of the collapse, overnight “democracy” and a so-called justice would bring nothing good and must not prevail. They are vocal but empty and extremely reactionary. On the contrary, strategies like Varela Project are to be encouraged because they accept the legitimacy of the government and the historical responsibility we have assumed in the last 50 years.