Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cuban Student Questions Provoke Diverse Reactions

Following are links to two sections of a video of an internet interview with students who had questioned Ricardo Alarcon.

While it is hard to draw conclusions based on the BBC's five minute excerpt of the original meeting, it is not difficult from personal experience to credit the authenticity of both encounters. There was obviously a need for Cuba to exercise damage control because of the way the meeting was being interpreted in the world press but the students' comments do not seem forced.

The sequence illustrates the complexity of having frank and open debate in a society which is under unceasing external attack. The defensive tendency in the past was for Cuba to show a face of unanimity and solidarity to the outside world, but the concluding quote from Juventud Rebelde in the IPS article indicates that internal reform has greater priority than fear of foreign enemies.

Without going into details about the UCI students’ meeting with Alarc√≥n,
anarticle in the Juventud Rebelde newspaper said the announced reforms of
theCuban system, considered "a revolution within the revolution," would not
behindered, and that the recent media frenzy would not fuel internal"reactions"
aimed at blocking the reforms.
One can only speculate on the role of the very articulate son of Carlos Lage, head of the Federation of Cuban Students, and on the impact of Alarcon's responses for his prospects in the leadership change that may be announced on February 24th.

Of equal interest to what took place in Cuba is what took place in el exilio in south Florida. The Sun Sentinel ran an editorial suggesting the students' questions showed it was time for the US to reciprocate.,0,2986418.story

But if Cubans are willing to speak now, risk potential reprisal later, then the
global community needs to take note and act accordingly. Especially the
United States, which has sat on its hands for way too long. Washington can
do its part by, first, acknowledging publicly that the process germinating
in Cuba is important and desired. Then it can signal its intention to review
its own hard line diplomatic stance if the era of openness in Cuba
Others saw the event as proof the end of the regime was approaching and could only understand what took place by leaping to the conclusion that the students had been repressed because of their questions.Most intriguing was Miami Herald columnist Ana Menendez who used the incident predictably to beat up on Havana, but then turned to reflecting on changes needed in her own Miami community.

That the young are boldly confronting the old guard in Cuba, where there is
so much more to risk, should humble us in Miami.

The best way we can support them is to continue to question our own
homegrown orthodoxies -- those tired narratives of bitterness and hatred
that keep us from engaging. And believing.

Interview with the students

the original BBC broadcast segment

video of the complete meeting

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