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As I have no talent, not even for beating out a rhythm on a door, the artists who play some instrument with virtuosity awaken feelings in me between admiration and envy. When, for example, Frank Fernández moves me with his interpretations of Sergei Rachmaninov or Frederic Chopin, I can hardly bear my own incapacity to do something similar. I feel like an idiot.
Maybe that’s why I was so surprised when, in the last session of the Cuban parliament, this remarkable artist, after expressing that he shared the emotions of all present, speaking to Fidel Castro confessed: “One feels like a half-wit when hearing your reasoning.” What is surprising and at the same time comforting is that, in my opinion, the ex-president wasn’t saying anything out of this world; his words were full of platitudes and enormous scientific, historic and political errors.
Could it be that anyone can play the piano well? I have not amassed the necessary merits to become a member of this parliament, but I am most optimistic; I already feel the touch of the keys under my fingers.
I don’t want to fall into that old people’s habit neatly summarized in the phrase, “I told you so,” when something happens someone already warned you about: Not content with having wasted the opportunity on July 26, Raul Castro again fell short in his speech to the Parliament.
The announcement regarding the broadening of self-employment and the flexibility to contract for workers are steps in the right direction, but still suffer from a lack of depth and are painfully slow. Can we go to the office that deals with these matters to take out a license as an independent journalist? Can joint venture companies recruit staff outside the monopoly imposed by the State? It was indispensable to end the paternalistic practice of having eight people where three is enough and of course suitability must be the first if not the only reason to select those who fill the jobs, but it is also important to stress in more detail that presumed discrimination and favoritism can’t come into play when it’s time for layoffs.
With the greatest respect, I do not believe, as our general-cum-president said, that there is no struggle between the different factions regarding the direction of the Revolution. The proclaimed unity is what allows Raul Castro to invoke a “we” as an imprecise subject determining the pace of the changes, but it is precisely on the issue of speed where differences can become sharpest, as they become a source of conflict when it is suspected that the speed and depth that some are proposing would necessarily end up dismantling of socialism.
If the opinions of a citizen veer from the interpretation of what the Party understands as “the same goals of social justice and national sovereignty,” those opinions will not be seen as honest differences and will be excluded from any possible dialog.
Raul Castro did not address the parliament as president of all citizens, but as the leader of a faction. There is nothing idle about his reiteration that “there will be no impunity for the enemies of the country, for those who attempt to endanger our independence,” and it puts into doubt that the much touted unity “is not the fruit of false unanimity nor of opportunistic simulation,” because, as is clear after a relaxed review of his speech, this unity is rooted in the panic of being marked with the stigma of traitor, which is attached to those who are only asking for deeper and faster changes, including, and why not, the dismantling of a system that has only demonstrated its inviability.
The president of all citizens would have an obligation to guarantee that no Cubans, however they think, are deprived of the right to freely express themselves, in any street, in any plaza. Fortunately, unlike those who are pressed into service to form the mobs for repudiation rallies, those who think differently from the Communist Party do not sit around waiting for a general to tell them they have the right to do so, and even better, they don’t depend on being given an order to go and demonstrate.