February 27, 2012
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*
The Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C. Photo: Wikipedia.org
HAVANA TIMES, Feb 27 — This past Wednesday night I received an email
that had been sent out to numbers of people from a diligent
Cuban-American cultural entrepreneur. It was a call from the Cuban
Interests Section in Washington for the holding of a meeting with Cuban
emigrants in the United States.
The document suffered from that aseptic style that afflicts diplomatic
communications, particularly those of Cubans in when it comes to the
issue of migration. Its narcissistic style that enjoys its own aim for
accuracy, so as to leave no room for interpretation, at least among
The message wasn't addressed to all migrants, only to those who "are
linked to their country in a respectful manner and are conscious of the
urgency of defending its sovereignty and national identity."
The meeting's agenda vaguely referred to "the normalization of relations
between the nation and its emigrants, the effects of the US posture of
hostility, as well as the blockade against Cuba and its manipulation in
relation to the issue of immigration, and the situation of the "five
anti-terrorist fighters unjustly imprisoned in the United States."
To dispel any doubt about who was being selected to attend, the message
noted that the Interests Office itself would choose them and send out
Of course, this document might raise many questions for any uninformed
reader, particularly if one respects the universal norms that govern
global migration processes and the responsibilities that issuing
countries must abide by in relation to their citizens living outside
These standards, incidentally, are the result of advances in the notion
of citizenship, the rights of these nationals and the relationship
between the state and the citizen. However these are standards which the
Cuban government doesn't abide by.
The conference has been called in this way, repeating the same
authoritarian, exclusivist, discriminatory and anti-national pattern as
its predecessors, particularly the four that have taken place since 1994.
No room for doubt
Nothing seems to have changed.
Havana balcony. Photo: Caridad
Even the title of the announcement is contradictory. They talk of "the
Nation and Emigration," as if both were to participate.
The reality, though, is that it's difficult to recognize the Cuban
government as a legitimate representative of the nation, the same way
that one cannot limit emigrants to a group of people whose selection is
based on their ideological and emotional closeness to that government.
This is not a case of the nation and its emigrants meeting, but of a
government of dubious legitimacy that fails to submit itself to
electoral scrutiny and only one part of an acquiescent fragment of its
emigrants whose sociological and ideological composition differ
materially from that of the overall emigrant population.
Therefore, we should point out that Cuba is not only a high volume
source of emigrants at the global level, but that its immigration
policies make it an source of politicized emigrants par excellence due
to its own politics of banishment, economic extortion and limitations of
all types that the government imposes on its emigrants.
Moreover, the title of the conference establishes a terrible dichotomy
between the "Nation and Emigration." They are two different things in
dialogue, and only one of them is the nation.
So even though Cuban emigrants finance a good part of household
consumption in Cuba, are asked to invest, are producers of what we call
Cuban culture, etc., they are seen as an external appendage to the body
of the nation.
The issue remains exactly as was defined by ousted Foreign Minister
Perez Roque, who in 2008 spoke in terms of "neither schemes nor
Manichaeism" and said "To emigrate is a right, to establish ones
residence abroad is a decision for each individual," which contrasts
with another evidently superior statement: "To experience hardships and
dangers, but also the satisfaction of defending the homeland here…is an
entirely voluntary act, a personal decision."
True interests cloaked
In reality, what the Cuban government is doing is the same thing that,
according to Julio Cesar Guanche, what a Havana rapper does: regurgitate
the secular ideological content of the revolution in retreat while
throwing a cover loaded with patriotic emotions over the concrete and
thorny problems of the nation.
Havana balcony. Photo: Caridad
Obviously, though, Guanche's rapper has to do this with more grace and
rhythm than the grotesque former foreign minister, who after so
conscientiously interpreting the wishes of Fidel Castro ended up
"intoxicated by the honey of power."
If Cuban officials are now returning to the issue of immigration, it's
because they desperately need the money and the participation of
emigrants in the capitalist restructuring of Cuban society and for the
post-revolutionary bourgeois elite.
Because of this, where we want to see one part of the nation, the Cuban
government sees emigration different from that. Where we want to see
citizens with rights — even the meager rights that ordinary Cubans
possess — the government sees remittances, tourists and investors.
Where we want to see a bridge for understanding, the Cuban government
would rather see the formation of a political lobby to achieve access to
the American market.
All of this poses a serious political challenge, and also moral one, to
those who decide to participate in this meeting with a pre-set agenda.
The Cuban government is going to expand participation to people other
than the members of those associations adopted by Cuban embassies. It
needs to. But these will be momentary acts of cooptation that do not
imply qualitative change, only a utilitarian extension of the fingerboard.
Those who agree to participate, from my point of view, are not crossing
an ethical Rubicon, nor are they turning into un-presentable
politicians. But if one attends, they should know that they will be
legitimizing a process that won't lead to normalization but to the
perpetuation of separation, ostracism and exploitation of emigrants by a
parasitic and authoritarian state.
They should know, no matter what their present intentions, that they are
If the Cuban government really wants to do something different it should
give up control over the composition of this meeting, open up the agenda
for discussion and finally promise some type of mechanism that links the
meeting's agreements and state's policies to be adopted.
We must demand this through all through the means we have.
I repeat what I said before: Either we direct our actions and demands
above the scaffolding, or we will end up — despite our intentions —
propping it up.
(*) Originally published in Spanish by Cubaencuentro.com.
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