Pardon or Parole?

Raul Castro is not going to make any substantial changes in the policies used by the government to maintain order in Cuba, a country which he and his brother Fidel have made their private property. As long as he’s strong enough to hold the presidential office, he’s sure to use the same old strategy based on repression and cautious economic liberalization.

Anyway, the rumour has it that Raul may retire from the office before his term expires in 2018. In this hypothetical situation, his resignation could resolve many of the uncertainties characterising his program of reforms, which, however, due to its lack of lucidity (apart from other inconsistencies) only increases the risk of worsening of the status quo.

Activist Licet Santos
Activist Licet Santos

Taking into account his advanced age, his term of office could be shortened by a sudden illness, which would send him either straight to the grave or to the bed, where he would vegetate, like his brother Fidel probably does, waiting to say his last goodbye. It’s fairly likely that without these two incarnations of the regime, the conditions for the ultimate dismantling of the structures of the system could finally mature. Meanwhile, we can’t expect any major steps on the path of transformation.

An event which raises more questions than answers is the recent release of fifty political prisoners. What will happen to those who have remained behind bars? Have the released really been acquitted or have they just been granted parole?

Until the penal code is revised and until an environment is created where people could legally exercise their fundamental rights, it’s logical to expect that the door to prison has been left open for all those who dare to publicly express their discontent or be politically active in some of the protest groups, not to mention their possible persecution by the unpunishable rapid response brigades.

The visit to Cuba undertaken by the US Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson on January 21 and 22 is not a signal of the hosting country’s willingness to curb the use of force against the critics of the regime. What may actually lie behind the meeting, which could establish the starting point for the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two governments, are new cases of violation of human rights.

The party which will cross the shifting border of tolerance during the meeting will have to bear the consequences, which include temporary confinement and acts of repudiation, two most common methods of punishment since Raul Castro took the presidential chair.

It’s necessary to clarify certain points to make sure that there won’t be any obstacles on the way to bilateral understanding, that there won’t be any petty pursuits of interests or omissions that would bring benefit to those who have been ruling the country with an iron hand, to make sure that everything will be put to a public ballot. There are topics which are unavoidable. There are obligations whose fulfilment bear no delay, the first of which has to be the unconditional release of all Cubans serving sentences for demanding (in a peaceful way) democratization of their country.

Jorge Olivera Castillo

Olivera Castillo is a former political prisoner. He published number of books. He lives in the old part of Havana.