If the political prisoners were sentenced only for thinking differently from the Government and acting accordingly, there would be nothing for it but to free them. This is a generally held viewpoint in some sectors of Cuban society, which includes figures like the singer Silvio Rodriguez, who stated that the sentences imposed on these citizens were excessive and they should be freed. In this context the question has arisen: If it is more logical and easier to release them, what is the reason for the mediation?
It turns out that this logic is insufficient to unravel a political conflict, that though it has an ethical component it is irreducible that aspect. Emerging from the coexistence of conflicting interests and identities, the case of the Cuban prisoners has its roots in the attempt to eliminate the plurality of our society. The need for mediation lies in the role it can be play in changing the images and attitudes of the parties, so as to enable them to move toward a perspective of dialogue. Mediation, although it emphasizes the present and future, requires taking into account the causes of the conflict which are rooted precisely in the field of politics, understood to mean a sphere that transcends the state, as evidenced by the existence and participation of civil society in the contemporary world.
In Cuba, a regime established in 1959 for reasons that are not covered by this analysis, evolved toward totalitarianism. The process of dismantling civil society and public spaces culminated in 1968 with the Revolutionary Offensive, which did away with at a single stroke the tens of thousands of small private establishments still operating. To be monopolized by the politics of the State, a State with only one Party, and that Party for an enlightened elite, resulted in laying the foundations of totalitarianism.
The cancellation of social spontaneity, which sustains and nourishes the human destiny, led the country in the opposite direction from the “luminous project”; for when the State has complete power over civil society, it prevents citizens from being political subjects and turns all who question its validity into enemies of the “homeland.” From this criterion, the State’s relationship with those who disagree ceases to become political and becomes a police matter against the enemies of order. This result can be defined as less democratic, because democracy implies the existence of the freedoms and the rights of the people lost in this process.
From this “achievement,” that is since the dismantling of civil society, the construction of the bright future offered by the ideology of power was projected, from which individual and group interests ceded their place to a common project, where the individual would be replaced by the mass, until the “success” became failures, from the economy to the spiritual deterioration. A fact that, although recognized by the Government itself has not so far been accompanied by the political will to proceed with the changes, which must include the revival of autonomous civil society. Hence the release of prisoners, if it occurs, can only be the starting point. To think otherwise is to ignore the causes that have led us to the point of stagnation and regression in which we live.
To treat those who think differently as the enemy is the result of considering humanity — diverse and plural — like an entity reducible to a particular social organization. The supposed superiority of such an organization is the belief that it is based on a transcendent truth that can explain everything. If the government has decided to make some changes in relation to political prisoners and from this change is trying to “update” the cause of the crisis model, you have to accept that other citizens, with their own ideas, enjoy the same right to propose alternative models . Mediation should help to understand this truth: the existence of the opposition is a necessary condition for the consolidation of a democratic regime. Therefore, if after the current release of prisoners, those who think and act differently are still considered evil and the law that allows them to be convicted for their thoughts remains, we will be back at the root of the problem, and so the work of the mediation would be reduced to the release of these new prisoners in turn.
The essence behind this whole affair is that politics is not simply a result of the social character of men, but also of their plurality. With the loss of consensus through tacit ignorance of the rights of others, mediation as a path to dialogue and negotiation is the best, if not the only way to restore the lost consensus, a restoration that for ethical, legal and political reasons presupposed the recognition of plurality. Blackmail consisting of “my way or the highway!” has proved ineffective and inadmissible. State political repression, as dangerous and severe it is, is not only ineffective with regards to what is being proposed, but also demeaning to those who exercise it.
For all these reasons, the release, immediate or gradual, or all detained for political reasons, although it solves a serious problem, it will not get to the root of it. At the same time conditions are required for freedom. Otherwise, we simply create a new form of domination that our tortured history can no longer resist. For this not to happen, freedom requires the existence of legalized public spaces in which citizens can exercise their political rights independently: this is the challenge and way out.
If the government, albeit belatedly and very slowly, decides to go in that direction to solve not only the problem of current prisoners, but also the future of Cuban society, it would score a goal in its favor. And if the Church as a mediator in the immediate solution to the problem of political prisoners, manages that the two parties, State and Society, progress the dialogue and mediation of the negotiations it will earn the well-deserved recognition of Cuban citizens and world. The opposite would be a disaster for everyone.