Ricardo E. Calvo MD PhD

The process of transformation in Cuba is not a subject conducive to a brief and simple treatment as the experience has shown in former communist countries.

It has been said following the collapse of communism that it would take some months to reform the political system, years to change the economic structure and several decades to effect a repairing evolution in the hearts and mind of the people. The latter will constitute the slowest most complex and elusive component of any process of transforming Cuba out of Marxism.

The norms of human behavior develop and are adopted gradually in an evolutionary fashion. They do not change overnight. An important factor that works against change is the length of time the previous rulers were in effect. The communist regime in Cuba has been in place for almost two generations and around 70% of the actual population of Cuba was born after the 1959 revolution. This is a population that has never experienced the slightest exposure to any other set of societal norms but that of the Communist Party.

In any transformation there is only a certain amount of time to carry out changes before people wish to settle back down to normal routines. Therefore, in a paradoxical way, any slow pace of change for rules of conduct tends to work against any sort of transformation.

If some evil is introduced in the body of politics whether by usurpers of power or by legitimate leaders acting inmorally, then order in the moral domain is deranged and the proper balance is only reestablished by removing the wrongdoers, punish them and reestablishing the previous status. The reestablishment of a normal situation in society is closely related to the task of healing the rift between the government and the people who are alienated from it. This is done by powerfully repudiating the past and not by compromising with it.

People will develop an allegiance to legal and constitutional principles when they understand fully that the principles of legality and the rule of law are part of their own values.

This purification of the Marxist era means that their ideas and the values have been definitely condemned and banished and the people can see the political and economic domain as cleansed.

The future government of Cuba must be cleansed of personnel who can not be trusted to hold power. As a result, the people will feel more confident that their leaders are not simply mouthing democratic ideas while surreptitiously undermining them.

We must condemn communism openly and radically without hesitation. Only in this way we shall be able to avoid seeing many sectors of the population claiming at some time in the future that some of the communist principles are somehow compatible with democracy and that socialism is not really that bad.

To exclude known communist from holding political office is indispensable as integral part of the transition period. It is not an indication of intransigence or of a new dictatorship. It is based on the simple idea that they can not be trusted to exercise political power consistent with democracy. The transition out of Marxism will need ample breathing space and time during which it can lay down the roots without the danger that the old Marxists will maneuver to undermine it as they practice the art of using power. The fundamental change in Cuba must be accompanied by the complete replacement of the ruling elite without being afraid of being accused of offending legality or lacking compassion.


We must and need to have principles that "string things together". These principles consist of individual initiative and private property within a protective frame of the Rule of Law in an environment of economic freedom. These principles must not and can not be legislated or invented. These principles are true and are consistent with the nature of men and therefore they work. To the extent that these principles of freedom are ignored or rejected people have suffered poverty, stagnation and tyranny. If these principles are recognized and practiced people enjoyed abundant progress. When people ignore principles they are headed for trouble. Those who try to operate without principles are embarking without a rudder. Principles do matter. Continuing failure to identify and champion these principles leaves countries and society vulnerable to assault at any time by the socialists. The moral legitimacy of anyone's action does not depend on what he does for others but on his rights as individual to live his own life. We must not subordinate the individual to the collective interest. Individualism maintains that the person is justified in pursuing his own self interest and he is not morally obligated to place welfare of the group above his own. This does not mean that the individual rejects any sense of obligation to others. It means that he recognizes as obligations only those which he has voluntarily assumed. As long as an individual respects the rights of others he is free to live his own life. We must recognize that a basic premise of a free society is self interest and not altruism. Many people think of themselves as altruists. These individuals consider as a moral obligation to sacrifice his happiness for others. The doctrine of self sacrifice has entered the political arena and it has become the legislative "must do" -- it becomes a duty. The altruistic idea of service within the political framework is the corner stone of tyranny. The other crucial and already alluded to principle is the recognition of intellectual and material private property. Without private ownership no other right can be assailed -- when property is controlled by the government all individual human rights are not considered rights at all. When government controls the private property in any way it is in a position to control all else. In communism and most socialist states the constitutions make a great show of guaranteeing all human rights except for the basic right of private property. One of the great myths of this century has been that a national economy is so big and complex that it must be managed and controlled by a central authority. The perverse influence of these political forces has been demonstrated in the Third World countries many of which have been ruled by socialist doctrines since independence from colonial powers. For every beneficiary of government intervention there is a victim and the most consistent victims are the poor. The free economic initiative is also an essential ingredient of a progressive society. Based on voluntary exchange, it is the only economic system consistent with human liberty and, by the way, it delivers efficiently the goods.


In reviewing the literature of the Cuban exile concerning the long term future of the Island one can not avoid being impressed by the insistence that we want to obtain liberty and the return of a free society.

Before we embark on the conquest of such goals it is worth considering what we shall have for freedom and what principles will guide the transition to construct such society. Many times we rely on distorted simplified knowledge and lack basic information to form political views and decisions. Nowadays many of us tend to support documents and agendas of which we do not posses a clear understanding and the consequences of its contents. But we are not alone. Widespread unfamiliarity with different political ideologies are well observed in modern democracies.

This situation is not confined to political information but extends itself to basic economic principles. The fact is that most economic truths are counterintuitive and the public endorses appealing policies in any given instance since in most occasions has little information to go on.

We need to make sense of the sometimes incomprehensible world of politics. We must be prepared to absorb political information, organize it and at the same time dismiss conflicting data

We have an imperative duty to become thoroughly familiar and question in detail the long term implications of the agendas and Declarations signed, supported and proposed for the future of our land by all and any organization in exile and inside Cuba. It will be sad to acknowledge in the non distant future that we were betrayed one more time. Can we afford it?

The forthcoming journey for Cuba out of Marxism will be the most demanding period of our history as an independent nation. Cuba is not going to be the first in executing it and hopefully not the last. Abundant optimistic rhetoric and passionate unrealistic statements will have no place when confronting such monumental task.

All Cubans must come to the hard realization that the transition out of the Communist Party ruling will depend on us. Its costs and efforts will not be born by any other nation or international institution but by us. Do not expect anybody else in the world to do it.

The transition out of Marxism is not going to be free or painless. It means relocations, disruptions and dramatic changes. The change of the whole political, social and economic system has been very costly in former Marxist countries. Do not expect to be otherwise in Cuba.

It is important not to be tangled in debates of fast versus slow reforms. Fundamental changes of the system are not made up of a single decision but of an array with realistic goals.

Some of the most successful transitions in Easter Europe have shown that there is not a sacred sequence of events which have proven to be optimal but do not doubt that substantial changes must be made. The imperative need for substantial and not marginal changes must be undertaken. Cuba does not have the luxury of long periods of time for a gradual and spontaneous evolution of institutions and rules.

There is no doubt that the economic and political reforms that will be needed in Cuba will come with pain and disappointment to many. We must be prepared to challenge quick fixes and not to abandon long term results in the name of soft socialism or Third Way approaches.

In the early 1990's the understanding of democracy in Eastern Europe was equated with the concept of prosperity but now appears to be identified more with private property, equal rights, currency stability and the ability to influence the government through elections and freedom of expression.

We must formulate and present to all Cubans a positive and straight forward vision of a new society. It must motivate and must reach all those who have spent most of their lives in the spiritually empty and aimless communist society.

We must sell a vision. For that, we must address all Cubans, we must argue, explain and defend such vision. It requires more than just information. It must bring forth dramatic changes in behavior, rules and institutions.

We must tell the truth and not promise things which can not be realized. To have credible programs and leaders who realize them are absolute imperatives.

There are some issues and concerns that all Cubans must face at this point in their long years of living either under communism and/or in exile.

How is it that we have failed to arrive at a common feasible and attractive goal capable of capturing the imagination and hearts of every Cuban?

Will it be possible for all Cubans to understand that preparing for the future of Cuba is so much more important than just the overthrow of the present hierarchy of the Cuban Communist Party?

How come we insist that the United States maintain its economic embargo towards the Island when the Cuban community in exile fuels the maintenance of the regime with several millions of dollars in the form of cash?

How come the Cubans have not managed to have funneled all the economic resources now at their avail towards the aim of eradicating socialism and all its vestiges from our soil?

I do not claim to have answers to each of these questions. I pose them with the purpose of possibly firing a spark to reassess where we shall go from here more than where we have been.

Opportunism and sectarianism in their pursuit of instant gains are willing to abandon the ultimate goal and focus in minor and short run appealing aims, sometimes in actual contradiction to the ultimate goal itself.

Beware that in a society ruled by impromptu politics anything goes. When we believe that everything is relative then the end becomes an ideological chaos conducive to gradual desintegration of the very fabric of a free society.

It is at this point in time and not later that we must ask: What kind of ideology will lead the island of Cuba in the post Marxist period?. Appealing political slogans and heroic actions by individuals in the past have robbed the Cuban people of clear thinking leading to deplorable political scenarios later difficult to change.

Most, if not all agendas and documents formulated by an impressive number of Cuban organizations do proclaim in a repetitious way that democracy is the kind of government proposed and favored. Many are not precise enough to define the type of democracy invoked. One could also ask if we shall be dealing with a social or liberal democracy. Is it going to be constitutional democracy or will it carry any other modifying adjective preceding it.? In more aspects than one, the challenging question is: what will be the functions that we shall allow the government to perform on our behalf rather than setting the rules for the government to act upon us?

Not because we are democratic we are going to be free but rather if we own freedom we shall be democratic. Not because we are democratic we are going to be prosperous but if we are independent owners of our resources we shall be democratic. Democracy needs individual economic freedom more than free enterprise needs democracy. The task of finding democracy and free economic enterprise still haunts many policy makers and Cuba is not going to be an exception.

The word democracy can be modified in very subtle ways by the appealing and appeasing adjective of socialism and easily sold to national and international interests. It is easy for many to talk about democracy but it is harder to find out what kind of democracy they have in mind. Rather than modifying democracy with socialism let us precede it with the word constitutional and set up the rules by which the government will behave.

It is not a matter of being against or in favor of democracy but knowing how to procure it and more important how to make it durable and to function properly.

Many countries in the world are called democratic and have ended as a private club governed by a selected group of politicians, military, senior officials and isolated university professors.

Many countries are called democracies and have had a single party control their destinies for several decades.

Many countries are called democracies and have had several groups of politicians control their Central Banks as if they were their own private bank accounts.

Democracy does not guarantee private property or the recognition of human rights or economic development. In many democracies there are expropriation of lands, control of rents, violation of human rights, systematic debasing of the currency and unlimited privileges enjoyed by a powerful elite of members of the government and their close associates.

The purpose of government must be to protect the individual and not to restrict him. For centuries there has been a debate concerning the relationship of individuals to one another and to the State. This debate has posed the fundamental argument underlying the modern democratic government and its functions and purposes: to protect life, property and liberty.

Let us learn from the free and economically developed countries and from those which were unfortunate to have suffered also in their past the ruinous consequences of socialism in its extreme fashion.

From the former we should adopt respect for our own lives and possessions to give us freedom and individual rights while governed by the Rule of Law without fear of fiscal irresponsibility.

From the latter, not to pursue the middle of the road course of democratic socialism. This is an attempt to combine free enterprise with the "best of socialism". The trouble with this concept is that there is no "best of socialism". This is an illusion that the socialists sell to a gullible public with emotional laden arguments. These forces forecast disaster if individualism is allow free play without the cement of "social justice" and if private ownership is not in someway controlled by the State. Democracy and socialism are not compatible. It has been tried many times in many countries with the same consistent historical result: misery.

If we are going to have freedom from government coercion then we must have full respect and recognition for intellectual and material private property.

If we want to enjoy individual human rights inherited as human beings independent of legislative powers then we need to respect and protect life.

If we expect to be treated equally by the law and not be subject to the rule of men we must establish and comply with the Rule of Law.

If we want to have long lasting ownership of our own efforts then we must demand full protection for our currency and responsible use of the national monetary reserves.

Have all your questions been answered concerning the transition period? Do not expected to be so otherwise we could claim to have been granted divine powers.

The intentions are not to fill in all the blanks in detail-- the purpose is not to go back to social engineering. Its dismal results are well known.

If at this point you have concerns and apprehensions about the future of Cuba then a major step has been accomplished -- to think, to ponder, to argue and to comprehend must be part now of this important and unique time in our history -- great challenges are upon us and it is doubtful we can afford another failure!.


January 2000


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