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It is striking that President Joe Biden has chosen virtual communication, and not a direct and official channel of communication such as the White House, to hold a controversial meeting with some thirty Cuban exile leaders, after the massive protests that took place on the island just a few weeks ago.
But it is even more striking that in an official meeting of this importance, the senators and congressmen who represent the interests of the great majority of Cuban citizens living in exile in Florida and who have the function of representing and channeling the concerns of this emblematic community, eager to offer their support and solidarity to those who led the historic popular uprising of 11J, have been excluded.
No matter how much Democratic Party sources —and media and journalists sympathetic to these interests— have wanted to convey an image of consensus when crediting the selection process of the interlocutors who participated in this working group, from which other historic exile leaders who can play a fundamental role in any process of democratic transition in Cuba have also been excluded, the truth is that this arbitrary decision has denied the constitutional right to a reputable group of legislators of Cuban origin, with first-hand knowledge of the situation in the country, whose analysis and proposals to seek a change in the island are as legitimate as those of the rest of those convened.
There is no reason to doubt the good will of the figures who had the privilege of participating in this selective meeting, most of them sympathizers of the Democratic Party, such as Eduardo Padrón, former president of Miami Dade College; musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan; actor Andy Garcia, the executive director of Casa Cuba at Florida International University and businessmen Carlos Saladrigas and Rick Herrero, directors of the Cuba Study Group, one of the organizations that supported President Barack Obama’s policy of rapprochement and normalization of relations with the Havana regime and which insists on a renewed diplomatic commitment with Cuba by the current administration.
But there is also no reason to believe that after decades of promoting all kinds of rapprochement, using “resilient” strategies that converge —in what many of them define as the promotion of a “constructive normalization”— without the need for a regime change on the island, these people have achieved absolutely nothing concrete except a clear lesson on how not to negotiate with authoritarianism.
Last Friday, Biden, confusing his role as mediator, staged yet another diplomatic pantomime. The president has summoned —this time at the White House— another group of Cuban-American activists in a new attempt at political dialogue to analyze the situation in Cuba and to consider the possible imposition of sanctions.
Except for musician Yotuel Romero, composer of the song “Patria y Vida,” the rest of the summoned —Florida Democratic Party Chairman and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz; Miami Freedom Project co-founder Ana Sofia Pelaez; the CEO of eMerge Americas and co-founder of Roots of Hope, Felice Gorordo, and music producer Emilio Estefan— are personalities close to the Democratic Party’s agenda who in no way prioritize the immediate and unconditional removal of the Castros and their clique from power.
This would be the second attempt at an exploratory meeting in less than a week without Biden inviting senators and congressmen of Cuban origin. Similar initiatives took place during the years of Barack Obama’s administration, but none had an effective outcome.
The policy of gestures with dictatorships is always dangerous. The image of restraint that Biden wants to convey with these rounds of contacts recalls, in effect, the policy of rapprochement with Cuba promoted by former President Obama, at the same time disavowing the most critical voices of the exile community that ask his administration to take a hard line with the regime in Havana.
His strategy of pacification and naïve diplomacy, his eagerness to discredit the Cuban exile community as intransigent and revanchist and, at the same time, to temper the disaffection against the dictatorship with the idea that if anyone has to give in, it is the millions of Cuban exiles living in the world and not the arbitrary and oppressive dictatorship that has oppressed the country for more than 60 years, continues to offer Raul Castro and his henchmen legitimacy with little in return, a bargaining formula that is more than profitable for a despot determined to perpetuate himself in power.
It is known that the United States will not intervene militarily in Cuba. But it is one thing to keep the pulse and press firmly on all fronts to force a transition to democracy, and quite another to offer a new lifeline to Castroism.
For the moment, the measures ordered by the White House to the State Department with respect to Cuba are cynical: to consider the expansion of personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, as well as to determine the creation of a working group that will evaluate options for sending remittances to Cuban families.
Who is behind these meetings? Curiously, Juan Gonzalez, director of the National Security Council (NSC) for the Western Hemisphere.
During the Obama administration, Gonzalez as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for American Affairs legitimized relations with the Castro regime, always interpreting the situation of Cubans from a false parity between the regime and those who suffer from it.
Among his achievements are some romantic agreements on anti-drug, environmental and human trafficking issues, the mediatic release of the American Alan Gross and the timely release of some political prisoners that did not stop the repression and were not followed by a sincere opening.
From this moment on, distrust has been taking root in the most critical sectors of the Cuban opposition, where the Obama team officials in charge of the agreements between the American administration and the Castro regime —the same ones who now work for Biden—, have long been seen as an obstacle to democracy in Cuba.
Gonzalez and a group of officials from the State Department, the National Security Council, Justice, Treasury, Commerce and Defense, among others, supervised by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, could in 2015 have taken advantage of their access to the Cuban regime to make its leaders understand that they had to win with deeds the creation of a scenario for intergovernmental dialogue. But they did not do so.
They forgot, once again, that any negotiation process with the Castro dictatorship must be conditioned to the establishment of a democratic and verifiable path, whose first step would be the respect for human rights and the calling of free elections.
How is it possible that Biden grants only a group of well-intentioned artists, professionals and businessmen the status of political interlocutor? How is it possible that the president, by accepting this type of biased meetings -thus delegitimizing democracy-, turns the members of the Senate and Congress into stone guests? How is it possible that Biden, convinced of the complex situation that Cuba is going through, is the most uninformed person in the USA?
It would seem then that any attempt at dialogue with the Cuban regime inexorably involves accepting the conditions of those who murder, break the law and violate fundamental rights on a daily basis.
Negotiation, a word distorted when one of the two parties refuses to give up its blackmail, is synonymous with cession. That is why Biden’s partisan call for understanding does not correspond to his role as mediator or to the principles that should guide his role as arbitrator in a country that urgently demands a democratic transition.
And although the president has finally described the Castro dictatorship as a failed and repressive regime, his government’s complacent attitude towards the criminal and radically illegitimate regime that subjugates Cuba continues to be cowardly and bordering on complicity.
Tightening the siege against criminals
It is enough to review the press these days to confirm the numerous calls for dialogue, mediation and even the exploration of all kinds of negotiation channels with the Cuban dictatorship. Many of them are well-intentioned and in good faith; others, however, are not, as they clearly respond to propaganda strategies that seek to create a climate of opinion that points to the Cuban exile as authoritarian, inflexible, closed to dialogue and, ultimately, responsible for the crisis that the Cuban people are going through.
And in the circumstances that frame us, this lack of democratic firmness is especially unacceptable, with a massacred, persecuted and imprisoned population in the face of an abusive military dictatorship dedicated to the destruction of the country.
In its more than six decades of absolute power, the Cuban dictatorship has developed an extraordinary ability to exploit the hesitations and weaknesses of the international community.
The only kind of dialogue that should be supported in Cuba’s case can only take place once the regime releases political prisoners and imprisoned protesters, calls free elections, restores constitutional order and the normal functioning of democratic institutions.
That is the absolute and non-negotiable priority that no democratic state such as the USA can renounce. To do otherwise would be to submit to blackmail based on the position of force, political arrogance and the most flagrant illegality.
In order to avoid the kidnapping of the general and sovereign opinion, it is necessary to unmask the opportunists of the dialogue, those who play politics with the alleged openings and false reforms, whose intention is to confuse and manipulate public opinion to further jeopardize the coexistence of Cuban civil society, already subjected to a terrible regime of terror.
Encouraging hopes that diplomatic rapprochement with a dictatorship in a terminal phase will help normalize relations between the US and Cuba is a reckless mistake. In this sense, the so-called demagogues of pacification, those who reserve for themselves the role of the politically correct and those who use the word negotiation as a refuge for their intellectual and speculative supremacy are more dangerous than ever. This type of delaying strategy, far from helping, generates frustration among citizens and discredits the method of negotiation.
Castro, Diaz Canel and their coryphaeus of propagandists cannot and should not condition the democratic liberation project of the Cuban people. No one should confuse the reiterated demand of a people for their freedom with a suggestion for a dialogue on what one of the interlocutors is incapable of putting into practice due to his authoritarian nature.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration —as did the Obama administration— historically indifferent to the offenses received from Havana, has not even called the head of the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington for consultations. And with all the inertia in the world, while innocent blood is flowing in the Cuban streets, Biden adopts the language, proposals and analyses that please the Castro regime. The president, with a grave and solemn gesture, threatens with remittances and internet, oblivious to the reason of an entire people who seek freedom without conditions from the dictatorship that oppresses them.
It is impossible to believe in Biden’s childish position based on the magnanimity of remittances, the mantra of new technologies, concord, and a suspicious agenda of meetings.
That is not the attitude worthy of a ruler who wants democracy for Cuba. It is necessary to tighten the siege on the criminals and undermine the vicious foundations of a bloodthirsty regime. There is not a minute to lose, because time is running to the benefit of the dictatorship and to the detriment of the freedom fighters.
Juan Carlos Sánchez, journalist and writer. His columns are published in different newspapers in Spain and the United States. He is the author of several books and is preparing the essay "Nación y libertad en el pensamiento económico del Conde Pozos Dulces" // Juan Carlos es periodista y escritor. Sus columnas se publican en diferentes diarios de España y EE.UU. Autor de varios libros, tiene en preparación la obra de ensayo “Nación y libertad en el pensamiento económico del Conde Pozos Dulces”