IDEAS For Cuban Democracy Discussed At State Of The World Panel

Panelists discuss IDEAS for Cuba during the State of the World lecture series. Victor Jorges/PantherNOW

By: Gabriella Pinos/Opinion Director


The session, titled “Initiative for Democratic and Economic Alternatives (IDEAS) for Cuba,” discussed the role of Cuba in Latin America, as well as ways to combat attacks against democracy in the region.

On Friday, Jan. 10, the second day of the State of the World 2020 kicked off with a conversation about democracy in Cuba.

Rosa María Payá, president of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy and Cuba Decide, said that the Cuban dictatorship is the “elemental root” of Latin American instability.

 “…it’s… a totalitarian ideology that also is the basis of the communist party in all Latin America, the basis of social movements and NGOs in Latin America,” said Payá. 

José Carlos Sánchez Berzain, a former Bolivian defense minister and director of the Inter-American Institute for Democracy, called the movement “Castrochavismo,” referencing the ideology of the Castro regime in Cuba and that of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He and the other panelists cited the destabilization in Ecuador, Chile, and Colombia, among others, as examples of the country’s offensive in Latin America.

“In this hemisphere, even when dealing with the Venezuelan crisis, the Cuban problem is ignored. So, what we have to tell our friends is you can’t resolve the metastasis without resolving cancer,” said Lincoln Díaz-Balart, former U.S. representative and chair of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute.

The panelists also noted the relationship Cuba has with leaders of organized crime and criminal activities such as drug dealing and human trafficking.

“It’s not a political process, it’s a crime process,” Sánchez Berzain said in reference to the Cuban regime, whose leaders he likens to “a group of criminals.”

To combat this, one of the main things Maria Werlau, executive director of Cuba Archive, suggested is to educate the American public on the true nature of the regime, including the length of Castro’s reign – 61 years –  the role of rogue states and non-state actors on the island, and Cuba’s success in “erod[ing] resistance” to its totalitarian model.

“People think, ‘how can this island of 11 million people in the Caribbean with a parasite economy – first living off the Soviet Union and now living off of Venezuela – manage to do that? And that’s the reason,” she said.

Changing the system requires the Cuban people to participate in free and democratic elections, something that Payá, through the initiative Cuba Decide, is trying to create. However, even with the people’s vote, Payá said much more needs to be done to change the island’s government.

“The regime needs to be forced to change, and it’s going to be forced by the people, but also by the international community, and when we are talking about a military that…is a criminal apparatus, that international community and that people have to manage to become a credible threat in the heads of those criminals,” said Payá.

In light of this, Payá stressed the importance of both citizen mobilization and firm international support to take down the dictatorships in Latin America. Díaz-Balart also encouraged international solidarity to fight for all people under similar regimes, such as that in Hong Kong.

“My suggestion to the students is to help the people in Hong Kong, help the people in Cuba, help the people in Venezuela; wherever they’re fighting for freedom, they deserve our solidarity. The more we can gather international solidarity, not only is it better for them, but for us as human beings,” said Díaz-Balart.

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