Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s Missing Apology

Photo: Sadiel Mederos.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s Missing Apology

5 / diciembre / 2023

The IV Nation and Emigration Conference came to an end in Havana on November 19, 2023. The event was another missed opportunity for the Cuban Government to really reconcile and draw closer to most of the Cuban diaspora community.

Since 1994, when the first of these “summits” was held, the Cuban Government has made it one of its objectives to split up the Cuban community, most of whom have disagreed with the way the regime has decided the fate of the island. It has been a great failure of “divide and conquer” policy, which has been applied in specific moments of crisis of the Cuban economy: 1994, 1995, 2004 and 2023.

They have tried to reduce this “Cuban community” to one voice, a fifth column, against the US embargo on Cuba and in favor of other policies that are in line with their own interests, but not the interests of the almost three million Cubans who live outside the country. How can they interpret the opinion of 371 participants as the overwhelming sentiment of millions of people? It’s simply impossible.

Statements by Ernesto Soberon, director of the Cubans Living Abroad Assistance Board at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and by Miguel Diaz-Canel when they say “relations between Cubans living abroad and the Cuban Government are at their peak”, can’t be further from the truth. Even more so, when millions of Cubans are planning to leave their home country because of the social chaos caused by 60 years of failed economic decisions. 

It’s not as what academic and government circles are saying on the island that Cuban migration is mainly economic. Cuban migration has a prevailing ideological tone because people don’t believe in the Cuban economy, they don’t believe in their leaders, and besides, emigres also have no way of changing this system with their opinions, which are widely held. Let’s remember that only 15% of the Cuban population are members of the Cuban Communist Party or its Young Communist League, to give you a number.

Diaz-Canel’s closing speech at the conference is the best example of how he wasn’t addressing those 371 Cubans, but the “eternal enemy”, the United States. However, it wasn’t the US who called everyone who left Cuba “traitors and worms” for many years. It wasn’t the US who closed all small and medium-sized businesses (1968), which are now being conveniently and temporarily presented as a solution to the country’s economic problems. It wasn’t the US that instituted poorly designed economic reforms (2021) that were implemented without taking any responsibility for them before its citizens. It’s not the US that is stopping those who “defect” from coming back to the country. There isn’t enough space here to list all of the mistakes the Revolution’s leadership has made over these past 60 years.

We grew up in a society that distinguished who was a dissident and therefore an outcast, deserving a political lynching, which left millions of Cubans traumatized. At the Nation and Emigration gathering, no formal and official apology was made for all of the mistakes that have been made to cause such mass emigration. As long as this apology remains unspoken, there won’t be reconciliation with the migrant community and Cubans who were forced to leave, and even encouraged, to leave their country.

Another speech could have talked about decisions like recognizing these Cubans’ right to vote, to invest with safeguards and under equal conditions. Not only allowing those who support the Cuban Government’s leadership to invest, as is the case right now. Another official could have spoken about giving emigres the same rights as residents, they could have eliminated the word defector and the political discourse that forbids a Cuban boxer abroad from using the national anthem. None of this was done in Havana.

Furthermore, we have to accept that the title of the event somewhat implies a conceptual difference for Cuban Government ideologues. The Nation integrates immigration; Marti’s concept of nation is all-encompassing, inclusive (non-exclusive and segregationist based on ideological differences), in a democratic society without resorting to violence. The Cuban Government insists on defining who is Cuban. However, being Cuban as a cultural concept, is a lot more than believing in today’s political project or not. We are all Cubans, those of us born in Cuba and the ones who identify as Cuban because they carry our culture, from Celia Cruz to Guayabero, passing by Kid Chocolate and Mercedes Matamoros and ending with Leo Brower. They can’t define who is Cuban and who isn’t.

Seeing this country as including every Cuban, the “good and the bad”, inside and outside the country, is perhaps the only path that can contribute to developing our economy and our country on the whole. Here’s my humble advice: forget the USA at these events. We Cubans have the ability to stop the current demographic hemorrhaging. Let Cubans, all of us Cubans, build Cuba’s future. Step aside and the country will rise.


This article was translated into English from the original in Spanish.
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