A Democracy with the People as the Commanders-in-Chief
There is quite a broad consensus in Cuban society regarding the need to advance towards a process of democratization. We have not, however, been able to reach an agreement about the kind of democracy it ought to be.
Government-Party-State commissions are working on private on plans for a new constitution and electoral law, indicating that they have realized that something must be done in this direction. It would be a serious mistake to leave the important aspects of these plans to select groups and to forget that this is an issue that ought to be addressed by all Cubans, excluding no one, with everyone discussing it, in accordance with a horizontal model, and voting in a referendum.
Those of us who are familiar with the regime might think that, although Raúl could honor his promise to abandon the presidency in 2018, he has said nothing about his post in the PCC (Cuban Communist Party). If Article 5 of the Constitution is not amended, which establishes the PCC's oversight of society, and he continues to serve as the General Secretary of the PCC, it won't make much difference whether he is elected or designated as "President," or the way in which this is done, because he would continue to sit on the throne, with the government functioning as a simple executor of the decisions made by the PCC and its leaders.
Let us not overlook the fact that in China, after Mao Tse Tung, true control over the Government and the Party was exercised by the Central Military Commission of the PCCH, headed up for several years by Deng Xiaoping, the architect of the reform measures that took China from a form of capitalism based on state monopolies to one under which private capitalism prevails, now being intensified in response to the crisis affecting the country's economy.
Hence, the challenge involves more than holding elections and voting for names on ballots. A process of democratization is necessary. In this regard a call to strengthen the democratic Left consists of five points:
"The creation of an atmosphere of goodwill and accord leading to the holding of an inclusive National Dialogue, the recognition of fundamental liberties, a new Constitution born of collective and horizontal creation and discussion by the Cuban people, and subsequently approved via referendum; a new democratic election law and the establishment of a modern state respecting the Rule of Law and characterized by total functional and informative transparency, under popular control; municipal autonomy; participative budgets at the different levels; and the submission of laws affecting all citizens to referendums. In short, a humanist democratic republic rooted in solidarity and featuring social justice, and in which the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human rights prevail, and there is a place for everyone."
Factions within the traditional opposition, in the official legal sphere, and on the democratic Left have exhibited support for national democratic constitutionalism, with concrete proposals that hitherto have failed to materialize due to sectarianism and the intransigent exclusivism characterizing the Party-State-Government's philosophy.
The suggestions span from the elimination of Point 5 of the Constitution, to reforming the document, to an entirely new carta magna; the re-establishment of the separation of powers (Executive, Legislative and Judicial); multiple parties; the freedom of expression and association; alternation in power; one-term limits; elections featuring direct and secret voting by all Cubans for all important public positions, at all levels; participative budgets; the municipalization of powers; referendums for laws affecting all the people; and informational transparency regarding the country's functioning and finances at all levels, under strict popular power.
Seeking to make advances in this democratic direction contingent upon those problems arising from the blockade/embargo is a strategic political error that will only serve to sustain stagnation, it being a neo-Plattist idea, however one looks at it. And this goes both for extremes.
The resolution of Cuba's internal issues cannot hinge upon a foreign power. Cuba's problems are the business of all Cubans, and we are the ones who must solve them and do what is necessary to harmonize the interests and opinions of the critical mass capable of working towards democratic change, through congruent channels.
Cubans wielding some influence in the US Congress could use it to further the democratization process in Cuba. If they refrained from establishing the aforementioned link they could burnish the image harbored of them by many Cubans, shaped by propaganda about the "Big Bad Wolf, the Miami mafia and exile, rife with terrorists."
Those in power in Cuba today know that Cuba needs this kind of process, but fear that it will spin out of control, wresting from them the absolute power they have held for more than half a century. This also explains the slow and sluggish pace of economic reform. They argue that they must be cautious in order to ensure that this process does not lead the country to the appalling Cuba of the 50s, suggesting the absurd threat of Cubans' having their current properties taken from them by those who owned them before they were seized, and the prospect of Communists being dragged through the streets like dogs.
Unfortunately this rhetoric is actually employed by some people across the sea, where some have people have not been thorough or precise when discussing these issues, enabling some Cubans to divulge their statements to justify opposition to change.
The choice between that past and this present is a false dichotomy. Rather, the real challenge is to build a new Cuba in which civil and democratic liberties and rights do not allow elites, of any kind, no matter how they classify themselves, to hold power in the service of their narrow interests.
Therefore, what we need as a society is something superior to our current society and that of the 50s, capable of configuring the different means of production entailed by reality and the time in which we are living, and social development is achieved through justice and solidarity, a respect for citizens' rights, real power for workers and the people and direct participation in all the decisions that affect them, rather than confrontations or struggles for power, which should reside exclusively with the people.
A reconciled, democratic and harmonious Cuba does not entail the elimination of political and other types of differences, but rather the possibility of their full manifestation, based on convergence rather than confrontation, and the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and negotiation, without impositions or the arbitrary abuse of hegemonic power, which would lie not in the hands of a few powerful individuals, but in those of all the people.
First of all, it is necessary to repeat that the best democracy would not be that desired by this or that particular group, or that which one finds most effective, but rather that which the people desire or approve, as expressed in a Constitution proposed by a Constituent Assembly, followed by broad, horizontal, free and democratic debate and, ultimately, ratified via referendum.
In short, a democracy where those elected to public positions are servants rather than those served, and in which the "Commanders-in-Chief" are the people.