A trip to The Real Cuba and Four Lessons from Chile

For many years I wanted to visit . I was actually invited on several occasions, even by Fidel Castro himself. But I was always reluctant to go there, since I did not want to be accused of being a “puppet” of the communists. We were fighting Pinochet’s dictatorship and I did not want anyone to think that we were listening to someone’s orders. What we were motivated by was the need to be free and to put an end to the fear of death and persecution that our people were suffering from. 

Now, I am 53 and I live in a wonderful democratic country where there is respect for human rights and liberties. In today’s Chile you are allowed to have your own opinion, make choices, elect your politicians, speak, meet with other people or travel, and these freedoms may not be withheld from you. In May 2007 I accepted the invitation to and for the first time in my life I travelled to the island to see what it was like. I wished to know the of common people, not the of a tourist who comes for his holiday to relax or who thinks that the island is a brothel for satisfying his primary instincts.

I arrived and the reality I met exceeded my imagination. Cuban people live under a dictatorship which terrifies them and makes them numb, paralysed and subjugated, and at this moment, they are left with no possibility of getting free. After almost 50 years, the dictatorial opprobrium is embedded in practically all generations and people accept the regime – either because they are afraid or because they do not know what democracy means. However, life should not be like this and we should do something for them. It is as if we were doing it for ourselves, because they are our brothers and sisters and we have to help them the same way as we were once helped. This is an inevitable mission of any advocate of democratic principles.

Is there any politician – president, prime minister, senator, member of parliament, councillor or other – who would not remember the ordeal provoked by criminals such as Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet, Ferdinando Marcos, Gadafi, Stalin, Idi Amin or Hussein who all used weapons to seize power and to satisfy their nefarious instincts, and who subjugated their people, presenting themselves as the “Great Saviours” of humanity?

Dear friends, to help we have to be brave and we always have to bear in mind that Fidel Castro is a dictator and that Cuban people live under a dictatorship. To help our brothers and sisters we need to fight very hard, and that is why I would like to remember how we started our campaign against the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in :

1. There were always politicians exiled abroad who kept on denouncing throughout the world what was happening in our country, and these politicians received support from foreign governments. However, the case of the Cubans who leave the island for dollar exile is different, as I have not seen any of them acting. Where are they?  

2. In , notwithstanding the political party to which we belonged, we were all united in a common cause, fighting the dictatorship by peaceful means, not with weapons. Our supporters were of different philosophies, ranging from Communists to Christian Democrats, and our unity made us a strong rival of the dictatorship. We cannot see any unity in though. The opposition leaders on the island lack support, especially Oswaldo Payá and the Varela Project. And the brave women who still continue their Sunday marches, every week at eleven o’clock after the morning mass, also deserve help.

3. All the workers from around joined forces and were followed by university students, by Women for Life and by the very poor. We decided to create the Civic Assembly and the politicians formed the Democratic Alliance. The Catholic Church played a key role; later, Protestant Churches did too. Undoubtedly, a great deal of work must be done to achieve this and great dedication is needed. It is also very important to cooperate with democrats from other countries of the world. If European and politicians pledge to cooperate, sooner or later we will see the people of well organized, leading their peaceful campaign against Castro’s dictatorship.

4. All democratic countries of the world offered their selfless help by making resolutions and agreements and by pronouncing official declarations. We also had financial help, we received visits from abroad and were invited to other countries. I personally met with the Pope John Paul II and with several presidents, kings, prime ministers, MPs and senators. And in the meantime, the Intern ational Confederation of Free Trade Unions, World Social Forum and World Confederation of Labour never failed to provide us support. Therefore, special political decisions must be taken, otherwise our friends in will not be helped. 

We have to grasp the whole situation once and for all. Even if Castro dies, Cuban people will not free themselves from the dictatorship without our help. At this moment, they are not united and they lack political and social support from democratic countries. We are free citizens and advocates of democratic principles and it is us, who must help . 

I am happy living in , because it is a free and democratic country and my nation has everything I was dreaming about. Nonetheless, this does not free me from the responsibility I have as a democrat. I cannot remain reticent and be blind to the horrors lived by the people in . How can it be that Fidel Castro walks around the world as a “Great Revolutionist” and no one, except honourable exceptions, tells him anything? How can it be that he is received as a statesman when he always wears his olive green uniform stained with blood, famine, prostitution and oppression?

Let us help to be free like and Europe . If my brothers and sisters are free, I too will feel freer. And if they are tied, I too will feel tied.

Rodolfo Samuel Seguel Molina is a Chilean trade union leader who played a major role in opposing the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.