This summer I traveled throughout Eastern Europe and had the opportunity to visit many former Soviet states including Latvia, Estonia and Russia. Going to these countries, speaking to their citizens, and watching their new democracies in action gave me hope that perhaps in my lifetime I will be able to visit a free Cuba. My parents left Cuba as children in the 1960s to escape Castro’s communist regime. They left the country they called home with just clothes on their backs and blindly yet faithfully entered the foreign United States of America. I’ve had many conversations with my family about their exile to the United States but one thing my grandmother told me has stayed with me. I asked her why they went to Miami, FL and not to Spain or Mexico and she told me in Spanish, “The U.S. is a place where people are allowed dream out loud.”
This freedom of knowing that the government to which you pledge allegiance protects your desires and dreams is foundational for a successful rule of law state. Although my grandmother might not have known the correct terminology, what she told me that day in essence was that they came to U.S. because it is a rule of law state. Cuba is a country that has laws, many of them. This does not mean however that Cuba as a governmental institution is constrained by the law. The government exercises arbitrary will over its citizens and uses laws as tools for their own agendas. The Cuban people live with little freedom and absolutely no consent or control over their lives as citizens.
Sitting here nearly 50 years after my family left their home with the hope of one day returning, it saddens me to see that not much has changed. Growing up I assumed that one day the Cuban people would wake up, look around and recognize that this system does not work. This is the hope, although naïve, that I have had the freedom to dream out loud. As I grew up and learned more about the way the world operates I realized that the only way Cuba would ever become a democratic rule of law sate is organically. The hope and yearning for change must come not from the Cuban-Americans dreaming out loud but from the people themselves, as it did throughout Eastern Europe two decades ago. It will need to begin with a change in the hearts and minds of the Cuban people it will take a considerate amount of risk and faith for them to begin to dream out loud. The people must believe that a government which is accountable to its citizens and which follows its own laws is even possible and that it is necessary. This cultural desire for and belief in the rule of law is foundational for the creation of the legal framework that would establish the system.
The process of creating a rule of law system in Cuba would be long, arduous, and may fail multiple times before it is successful. A ‘rule of law culture’ would need to be fostered in the society and a new constitution, which would be legitimized by the consent of the governed, would have to be written. Democratic institutions that help support this constitution will need to be created and the legal framework would need to be amended and reformed. These changes would take years and they are only the beginning. Before any of this is possible, before Cuba can even begin to make a transition from a Communist society into a democratic rule of law state, the people need to believe that it can happen. The Cuban people need to have the courage and support to dream out loud.
If you’re interested in learning more about Cuban-US relations go to this website: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2886.htm
To learn how to support Cuban dissidents trying to dream out loud go to this website: http://www.raicesdeesperanza.org/