Seven Questions

Popular diplomacy needs no memorandums or declarations of intent, it is carried on directly between people without going through foreign ministries or government palaces. It is accompanied by a hug, a handshake, or a long talk in the living room of a home. Without aspiring to bright lights or headlines, ordinary people have rid the world of many wrongs, perhaps have avoided wars without number, and may even be responsible for certain alliances and some, few, moments of peace.

Occasionally, an individual without ministerial credentials or official privileges speaks to power, throwing out a question that remains unanswered. As Cubans we have to be content with the fact that no one from “up there” will try to explain to us or consult with us about this Island’s course, which feels like a boat taking on water and about to shipwreck. Tired of their not acknowledging us, in our smallness, I decided to throw out seven questions to those who believe—right now and with their actions—that they are determining the fate of my country.

The conflict between the governments of Cuba and the United States not only prevents the people of both shores from establishing smooth relations, but also determines the steps, of the lack thereof, that must be taken for the necessary transformation of our society. Political propaganda tells us that we live in a besieged city, David facing Goliath, a “voracious enemy” about to pounce on us. I want to know, from my diminutive position as a citizen, how this dispute is going to play out, when will it cease to be the central theme in every aspect of our lives.

After months of trying I managed to send a questionnaire to the American president, Barack Obama, with some of the issues that keep me from sleeping. I already have his answers, which I will publish tomorrow, and now I want to extend my questions to the Cuban president, Raúl Castro. They are questions, born from my personal experience and I recognize that each one of my fellow citizens might have worded them differently, in their own way. The doubts that they entail are so distressing that I can’t allow myself to envision what kind of country my children will grow up in.

Here are both questionnaires.

Questions for Raúl Castro, president of Cuba:

  1. What negative influences on the ideological structure of the Cuban revolution might there be from an eventual improvement in relations with the United States?
  2. You have demonstrated on several occasions your willingness to talk with the American government. Are you alone in this proposition? Have you discussed it with the other members of the Politburo to convince them of the need to talk? Does your brother Fidel Castro agree with regards to ending the conflict between the two governments?
  3. You are seated at a table opposite Obama. What are the three major achievements you would wish to get from that conversation? What do you think would be the three major achievements that the American side would wish to get?
  4. Can you list the concrete advantages the Cuban people would have in the present and in the future, if this long dispute between the two governments ended?
  5. If the American side wanted to include a round of negotiations with the Cuban community in exile, members of opposition parties within the Island, and representatives of civil society, would you accept that proposal?
  6. Do you think there is a real possibility that the current United States government would opt to use military force against Cuba?
  7. Would you invite Obama to visit Cuba as a sign of good will?

Questions for Barack Obama, president of the United States:

  1. For years Cuba has been a U.S. foreign policy issue as well as a domestic one, in particular because of the large Cuban American community. From your perspective, in which of the two categories should the Cuban issue fit?
  2. Should your administration be willing to put an end to this dispute, would it recognize the legitimacy of the Raul Castro government as the only valid interlocutor in the eventual talks?
  3. Has the U.S. government renounced the use of military force as a way to end the dispute?
  4. Raúl Castro has said publicly that he is open to discuss any topic with the U.S. provided there is mutual respect and a level playing field. Is Raúl asking too much?
  5. In a hypothetical U.S.- Cuba dialog, would you entertain participation from the Cuban exile community, the Cuba-based opposition groups and nascent Cuban civil society groups?
  6. You strongly support the development of new communication and information technologies. But, Cubans continue to have limited access to the internet. How much of this is due to the U.S. embargo and how much of it is the responsibility of the Cuban government?
  7. Would you be willing to travel to our country?

43 thoughts on “Seven Questions

  1. Sandokan;
    The article might be, in your words, excellent but I have not seen or heard of companies doing business with Cuba. In the US it might be minimal which is why the group from Idaho and another one from Nebraska would prefer open relations, not minimal which might give the people of Cuba band-aid like assistance, not full economical assistance.
    As for the question posted by Humberto, I doubt that Raul would dare to reply to Yoani’s questions and while he might want to or prefer to run Cuba in a similar was as the people of China run their country the ideologies are very different and Raul would have establish a “new way” to run the country and I doubt Big Brother Fidel would go with it.
    Being the man in charge does not mean that the elder one will agree with his ideology, as we already know, and while running Cuba like China, from an economic view might be a good idea, I doubt Fidel would agree.

  2. You need think about it. Despite the emails, the overwhelming evidence showing global warming is happening hasn’t changed.
    “The e-mails do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus . . . that tells us the Earth is warming, that warming is largely a result of human activity,” Jane Lubchenco, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told a House committee. She said that the e-mails don’t cover data from NOAA and NASA, whose independent climate records show dramatic warming.

  3. The United States government’s embargo has had little effect on the Cuban economy, since it only represents 6% of Cuba’s commerce with the rest of the world. The embargo only affects the American companies and their subsidiaries. The rest of the countries, a 180 since the last count in 2007, and companies are free to conduct business with Cuba and are doing so, as confirmed by imports surpassing $10.00 billions during 2007. In reality there is not such embargo since in the year 2000 the United States Congress lifted the prohibition of the sale of agricultural products and medicines to Cuba, thereby allowing Castro’s regime to buy everything it needs.

    From December 2001 up to December 2007, the Castro’s regime had signed contracts for more than $2.00 billions with American companies for the purchases of their products. The U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, based on analysis of official figures of the Castro’s regime, has estimated the import of U.S. agricultural products in $437 millions during 2007. Cuba’s National Statistics Office ( placed the United States as Cuba’s fifth business partner at $582 million in 2007.

    The following excellent article makes solid points against lifting the embargo without meaningful changes in Cuba. The author lays out good reasons why lifting the embargo will benefit the Cuban dictatorship, no the Cuban people:

    Lift the Cuba Embargo?
    By Humberto (Bert) Corzo

  4. The embargo was one thing that, in my opinion, was the thing to do back in the days of the missile crisis, when the USSR placed missiles in the island. For the last 40 years it has served one purpose, sadly, and that is to give Fidel and now his brother Raul a “reason” to call the USA the evil empire. They do not know how to bring Cuba out of the economic hole they have put that island in, so what better excuse do they have other than blame the Yankees.
    As a Cuban American I find myself in a minority as I wish that relations were established but I doubt this would happen in my lifetime.
    Of course I never thought that I would see the Berlin Wall fall, and yet it did, so miracles do happen.
    The one thing I have always asked myself and asked those that do not agree with this view are this: “The US has relations with China, Vietnam, Russia, etc. All those countries are under a communist regime, so why not relations with Cuba?

  5. RE: Biological Solution.

    Yes, God forbid that an old man whose actions and ignorance have ruined an entire country should feel any discomfort over that fact. Protect Fidel’s feelings at all costs. If it requires the slow starvation of an entire people, so be it. If proud Cubans must beg outside pharmacies to procure medicines, too bad. Free medical, yes. Free pharmaceuticals? Not on your life. At all costs save the feelings of a deluded old man.

  6. Estoy seguindo la situacion para mi bloge desde Portugal:
    Se tienes algo que quieras decir por aqui, puedes hacerlo.
    Mi unico interès es la defensa de las liberdades.

  7. respeto y admiro lo que aces….hablo con otros sobre lo que has conseguido con
    tu blog….es increible pero ha hecho mas que cualquiera en 50 anos , que es llegar
    a tener al govierno pensando que puede acer contigo y dodavia no lo saben.
    sobre las pregutas, Obama ( a quien yo no elegi ) devio de explicar que los Estados
    Unidos ni el Embargo tienen la culpa de que Cuba vaya solo para atras, que le compre
    a los otros paises. y no pienso que Raul te conteste pero fuera intresante si lo
    hace. que estes bien

  8. I’m glad to see our President replied to your questions, and that the people of Cuba might see that it would be silly to think we would ever invade Cuba. I just cannot imagine that ever happening. I do think the people of Cuba should determine their own future without dictatirship mandating their lives, and I’m sure the people will have their way eventually. I’d love to see the answer to Raul Castro’s Question 5 – that would show the true intent of Cuba’s leaders.

  9. Yonai states that, “Political propaganda tells us that we live in a besieged city, David facing Goliath, a “voracious enemy” about to pounce on us. I want to know, from my diminutive position as a citizen, how this dispute is going to play out, when will it cease to be the central theme in every aspect of our lives”.

    Here in South Florida, I tune in to the daily broadcast from RadioCuba which, I am sure, are meant to be kept “secret”. I first heard this “propaganda” that is written between the lines of every broadcast and I said out loud “WHAT??? Is he (Castro) serious?? You’ve got to be kidding me! Why on earth would the U.S .want to invade Cuba”? It is far more simpler to convince the people of Cuba that the U.S., and therefore, free enterprise, civil rights and democracy, are the enemy. It is far more simpler to instill fear, and therefore isolation -but this, you see, is counterproductive. It is human nature, not only to covet the forbidden fruit, but for humanity to aspire to freedom of self expression, creativity and progress, for a meaningful purpose to his own existence.

  10. Walter — Don’t you know? Only Chinese-Americans are allowed to go to China. Only Vietnamese-Americans are allowed to go to Vietnam. Only Irish-Americans are allowed to go to Ireland. And so on.

    Why? Didn’t you listen to Alarcon’s reply to the students at the University? If everyone could go wherever they wanted all those planes flying around up there would hit each other and crash! And good heavens, we can’t have that!

  11. Cuban-Americans who do not want to travel to Cuba don’t have to go. But tens of thousands are now going since President Obama made that an option for any Cuban-American at any time and as often as they wish to do so.

    Why should Cuban-Americans have special rights, special privileges and special advantages that others in the United States are denied?

  12. I understand perfectly well comrade Lippmann. Everyone has a right to express an opinion even when it is thinly veiled, second rate propaganda. I will protect your right to say what you will even though you defend those who deny that same right to Cubans on the island. You can attempt to paint me as intolerant, nevertheless I retain the right to call a spade a spade…

  13. Walter — it’s nice to see you here… I have seen your name in other blogs (if you are the same person).

    I’m wondering, aren’t you connected in some way (working with, know her, whatever) with “Machatera”? If you are, I would ask you to ask her (or if you can, feel free to explain on her behalf), why she hides behind a psuedonym. It’s perfectly normal for people commenting on a blog to use a nickname and I have no beef with that… you don’t see my full name and address up there. But when someone has their own blog, which is basically dedicated to accusing another blogger of lying about everything, why hide behind a mask? Why not come out and proudly show yourself and stand behind your opinions?

    If I’m wrong in thinking you two know each other, my apologies.

  14. Thanks for saying you are open to other perspectives. Yubano doesn’t sound very welcoming, but he speaks for himself in his own voice.

    My father and his parents lived in Cuba during World War II. My first visit to Cuba was in 1956, during the Batista dictatorship. No one complained about human rights violations during Batista’s dictatorship.

    President Obama just spent several days in China, whose one-party political system isn’t much different from that of Cuba. He said things critical of China, but the United States maintains normal relations with China despite that. The US has normal relations with Saudi Arabia, where there are NO political parties.

    In my opinion, normalization of relations with Cuba would enable both countries to address their own issues and problems in a better manner. Cuba has plenty of problems, and not all of them are caused by its unfriendly neighbor to the north. But the many ways which US restrictions DO influence Cuban life should be ended and relations between our two countries should be normalized, as they are with China, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.

    Yoani Sanchez writes:
    “It is these trade restrictions, so clumsy and anachronistic in my judgment, that can be used as justification both for the setbacks in productivity and to repress those who think differently.”

    If US companies want to do business with Cuba, they should be free to do so. If people from the United States want to be able to visit Cuba, they should be free to do so.

    This shouldn’t be very difficult for Yubano to understand.

  15. To Walter Lipmann: Comment # 26

    Walter, by any chance you belong to the Antonio Maceo Brigade?,,, or are you a member of the G2 ?,,,, I ask these things, because you are very well informed about the Cuban case, it is more for your expressions look like a Cuban , but those of Castro, a more remote-controlled puppet from the island.

    To your knowledge, the 5 Cuban terrorists, charged and convicted of espionage, were subjected to a fair trial, where they were tested without “reasonable doubt”, that are guilty, therefore deserve to be punished now imposed on them.

    Do you know how many persons have been shot by express order of Castro, his brother and the gangsters that surround them ?,,,, do you know that only “pretending” that something you are guilty enough to Cuban laws you shoot or you condemn many years of jail?

    If you do not know, now you know,,,, and if you know but did not understand, then you are very stupid or too blind, and if you know and support the regime,,,, then you deserve to go to hell along to those that enslave my island for 50 years!!


  16. Walter Lipmann

    Good to see a new contributor to the blog, different perspectives and opinions are always a a good thing. I’d like to ask you a question but before I do that let me lend some perspective. This is a blog about Cuba and the reality of the current situation in Cuba. The “reality in Cuba is not up for interpretation, or for sympathizers of the illegitimate government of Cuba to put their spin on it. What’s going on in Cuba is about Cuba, it’s not about you and your rights, it’s not about the US. Frankly the entire argument about how the boogey man to the north is responsible for the misery, bad government and unrelenting repression going on in Cuba is old, unoriginal and very tired. Oh pardon me, I see you are very well informed, you read Yahoo and Cubanews, how impressive. You sound like a functionary for the Cuban government, conveniently leaving out disagreeable facts. Please save us the left wing claptrap we’ve heard it all before. What makes it more nauseating is that it comes from a self-hating American. But maybe I’m presuming too much. Tell us, what axe are you coming here to grind?

  17. Raul Castro speaks for himself. I’m not Cuban, but I try to follow the Cuban story through the Yahoo news group CubaNews, now in its tenth year.

    Washington imposed the blockade on Cuba in 1962. Washington should lift the blockade. Washington works hard to disrupt Cuba’s economic development and relations with other countries through the Helms-Burton law. It fines banks which engage in transactions with Cuba. It prevents private US companies from investing in Cuba. It prevents Cuba from selling its products and services in the US market.

    The conversations between ordinary people from the United States and ordinary Cubans can’t take place if ordinary people from the US aren’t permitted to visit Cuba.

    Washington is already using military force against Cuba. It occupies the Guantanamo naval base, with an armed military power, against the wishes of the Cuban government. Cuba, on the other hand, uses zero military force against the United States.

    The first think that Raul Castro would want to have in conversation with Obama would be the immediate freedom of the Cuban Five. This is no secret. Raul has said this openly on several occasions. He has said he’d be happy to trade them for the dissidents jailed for collaborating with Washington, and their families, too.


  18. Elena

    I agree with you on every point including the part that Yoani is still somewhat tainted by all the indoctrination and misinformation she has been saturated with her entire life. She is a victim of all the lies that have been repeated incessantly over the years. If a lie is repeated frequently even the liar will begin to believe it. There are very few things the Castros have done well, actually I can’t think of any except one, propaganda. They are master bullshit artists. They have projected their cynical and self-promoting view of the world very effectively. Case in point is how well they have stigmatized the Cuban exile community in the eyes of others. They have succeeded to a large degree as painting us all as irrational right wing lunatics and coined the phrase Miami Mafia. But the story is getting old and with each passing day they lose more and more credibility for those that gave them any in the first place. They don’t even believe their lies anymore. People like Yoani are playing a very important and visible role in that process and she must be supported and encouraged regardless of some views she may still hold on to.

  19. No matter how much “political correctness” she used to couch her questions to Raul he will never a give a direct response. That would mean recognizing an opposition figure, something they have never done and probably never will. It is a great stroke on her part, she has nothing to lose…

  20. Yoani’s prose may be masterful when she writes about the reality she lives, but when it comes to politics, her naivete reveals the scars of the political indoctrination she received at the hands of her “educators” as well as the historical vaccum and falsification in which Cubans have been forced to live. All her internet savvy hasn’t helped her to overcome this so far.

    The U.S.-Cuba differendo is grounded on the theft of American properties totalling what would be billions of dollars today, which has never been repaid. The illegal killing of thousands of Cubans as well as some U.S. citizens remains another reason for not normalizing relations with a regime that has never addressed these questions. Yoani’s questions do not address these either. And she reveals how mistaken she is about President Obama and his political inclinations.

    The embargo needs to stay in place so that the U.S. taxpayer will not be forced to subsidize the Cuban government which owes billions around the world and has no intention of repaying it. The reason Castro and his gang want the embargo gone is so they can obtain credit for purchases here in the U.S. which they have no intention of paying for.

  21. It is a totally unrealistic notion but wouldn’t it have been a bold move if Obama had invited Yoani to the White House and answered her questions in person.

  22. “I stress again that all the ills of our island in the last 50 years are the result of the cruel and absurd policy implemented by Castro and his band of gangsters.

    For that reason, I am convinced, absolutely certain, that while these bloodthirsty beasts breathe,,, never,,, there never will no be any dialogue to resolve the problem, never, never the Cuban government will try anything but since position of strength,,, that’s his nature, that is the essence of this machinery of destruction sick beats in the brain of the Castro’s and the rest of the old leaders, that at this moment have no way back.”

    Exactly. This whole embargo charade is a kabuki theatre created by the Castro’s to enslave Cubans to a failed “ism”. Cuba suffers because of the maniacal Castro’s. The day Fidel dies the embargo probably ends.

  23. We all know and understand the intentions of Yoanis, and, many like her, want to once and for all be totally free!!!!!

    I wish all these ideas could be a reality now!!!!, and even I don’t want to be pessimistic, I stress again that all the ills of our island in the last 50 years are the result of the cruel and absurd policy implemented by Castro and his band of gangsters.

    For that reason, I am convinced, absolutely certain, that while these bloodthirsty beasts breathe,,, never,,, there never will no be any dialogue to resolve the problem, never, never the Cuban government will try anything but since position of strength,,, that’s his nature, that is the essence of this machinery of destruction sick beats in the brain of the Castros and the rest of the old leaders, that at this moment have no way back.

    The solution came from within, the solution is the “biological” as Yoanis said, “but will never be the way of obtaining privileges or concessions, etc., etc., by the U.S. government,,, even if Obama “kneel before Fidel and implores for your friendship”,,, Fidel incredible will return one objection that will back any hope of reconciliation.

    The spinal cord of the Castro regime is maintaining power at any cost, no matter how or how much,,, no matter the media, lies,,,, the goal is always the same “perpetual power” has even if he has to kill their own brothers,,,, who cares?,,, I’m Cesar!! Castro thinks so surrounded by his puppets !!!!!!

    “Fraught with good intentions that the road to hell !!!!!,,,


  24. Keep up the fight. One day all Cubans will be reunited as one people. Cuba’s “Berlin Wall with Miami will soon be torn down.

  25. Dinner in homes… I meant they were not “paladares”.

  26. Hi Kerry — well I think this post is going to be quickly overwhelmed by tomorrow’s post when Yoani posts whatever answers she got from Obama…. but I am also very interested in the question about “to travel or not to travel” to Cuba. And really open to hearing what others have to say.

    I guess I come down right now on the side that we should feel free to go, and try to put out money in the hands of individuals. I bought a package tour once that was cheaper than the plane ticket alone would have been, so we ended up in a Havana hotel… clearly that money went to the Military-run government tourist industry. But when we wanted to get a cab, for instance, we always walked away from the hotel and tried to get the ones not licensed to pick up at the hotel… and as much as possible to take Almedrons and of course pay the driver more than a Cuban would (after all… he wasn’t even supposed to pick us up)… we traveled outside of Havana and stayed in Casas… and generally tried to get as much money in local hands as we could. (for example we paid people to make us dinner in their homes, which they were not supposed to do… these were not casas…) Were we helping or hurting? I don’t know. But I know without that trip I might not be a reader of this blog at all… nor care in a more personal way about what happens in Cuba.

  27. Andy,

    You may be right. But I don’t want to wait for the biological solution. I want the solution now – I wanted it yesterday, way before yesterday, but it never happened.

    Cuando mi querida abuela que yo tanto quería murió, una de sus últimas palabras fueron “Fidel está todavía vivo?”

    That’s how much this creature affected her life and my family’s; all of us. On her deathbed, she wanted to know if it still lived. Faced with her own mortality, she wanted to know if she had outlived the monster. How horrible is that?

    I could not give her an answer to calm her passing. So here I am in this room, telling strangers this personal thing.

  28. Yoani, you don’t know how amazing this is, seriously! It is such a simple idea but so huge at the same time. I feel the change coming, I feel it! Let’s hope these are our first steps to some brighter days for U.S-Cuba relations!

  29. Upon your request Andy, here is left over comment from an earlier thread. Can you share your insights and feedback?

    I’ve seen Cuban hospitals and health care practises, I wouldn’t want to go there to be treated. Regarding the education loans Canadian doctor’s acquire to get their education, once they are practicing doctors they will earn around $200,000 to $500,000 dollars a year, so they soon pay off their debt. What do Cuban doctors earn? The so-called ‘free education” is swindled from your earnings for the rest of your life.
    El Papi Chulo #44. I can appreciate your frustration with many of those tourists who don’t care to look past their own pleasures to see the suffering of the Cuban people who are serving them. I think your anger is appropriate. I am not one of those tourists.
    I can appreciate the views expressed that we Canadians should just stay away and stop spending our money there, yet I don’t know if I agree. Don’t you think countless tourist dollars are flowing directly into the hands of Cubans, either through tips or gifts? And would you agree that all that gifted money gets trickled through countless hands in the grey market, allowing people to survive? ……i am very open to hearing your opinions on this.

  30. Hank — I think we have to wait for the BIOLOGICAL SOLUTION for the real turning point… but after that….


    Por fin alguien habla. Soy casada con un cubano y analise Cuba mucho. Cuando veo mi familia morirse de ambre aunque que tengan dinero que yo mando, no se encuentra, ademas, todos tienen miedo de hablar, de quejarse. En Cuba la ley de Omerta esta bien respectada del pueblo. Nilgunos direchos humanos existen y yo que estuve en Santiago, ni peudo contar las veces que la policia pararon a mi marido para pedirle su Carne. Fue una broma las cantidades de veces, noche atras otra se lo pedian, a la misma esquina y las mismas policias. Ahora, cuando veo la juventud Cubana,prostituandose con el turismo de podo valor, y eso solamente para poder comer, eso es criminal.Al final, es lo que quiere Fidel y los dirigentes de Cuba, para interesar al Turismo, pero que clase de turismo quiere el pueblo de Cuba. Basura de otros pais???Soy québécoise y parami la libertad de exprecion es muy necesaria para desarollarse, la confiancia en mi mismo. No puedo creer que estamos en el ano 2010(casi) y que la isla de Cuba sigue carcel. Deseo a todos los cubanos que se liberan de esta dictatura, porque Cuba no es socialista. Fidel, el politico el mas rico del mundo, algo anomal, el politico esta ali para defender su gente no para ayogarlos.
    Gracias por mi libertad de exprecion en tu web


  32. Read the fine print!!!! Tomorrow… Obama’s answers! Hot damn!!!! Our Flaquita has the ear of the president of the United States… and… he even talks back to her!!!!!!!

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