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Cablegate: Cuba: Civil Society Fully in Favor of Improving

VZCZCXRO7862
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHUB #0723/01 3381344
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041344Z DEC 09
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4969
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCOGCA/COMNAVBASE GUANTANAMO BAY CU PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCE/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HAVANA 000723

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CCA AND WHA/PD
STATE FOR DRL CNEWLING

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV CU
SUBJECT: CUBA: CIVIL SOCIETY FULLY IN FAVOR OF IMPROVING
U.S.-CUBA TIES

REF: A. HAVANA 592 ("GOC SIGNALS +READINESS TO MOVE
FORWARD,")
B. HAVANA 629 ("BLOGGER SPOILING FOR A FIGHT WITH
THE AUTHORITIES")
C. HAVANA 684 ("BLOGGERS BEATEN BUT NOT DETERRED")
D. HAVANA 660 ("CUBAN INFORMATION BLOCKADE")
E. HAVANA 704 ("CUBA UNLEASES MOB ON BLOGGERS")

HAVANA 00000723 001.3 OF 002


NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

1. (SBU) Summary. There is widespread consensus among Cuban
civil society that improving relations between the United
States and the GOC will strengthen the cause of freedom in
Cuba. While skeptical that the GOC is capable of leading the
process, civil society leaders urged U.S. policy makers to
look beyond GOC policy for evidence of improvements in the
human rights situation on the island. End Summary.

CIVIL SOCIETY FULLY IN FAVOR OF IMPROVING RELATIONS
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (SBU) Civil society leaders in Cuba are nearly unanimous
in their positive appraisals of the recent efforts by
Washington to improve relations with the GOC through direct
talks on issues of mutual concern and the easing of
restrictions on travel, remittances, and trade. Leaders
hope that this process will continue and broaden, and that it
might lead to greater government-to-government engagement on
other issues. They particularly praise the ability of the
United States to seek greater relations without sacrificing
its human rights agenda or contacts (Ref A). This report is
based on a series of September to December 2009 meetings in
Havana with a wide variety of civil society leaders.

BETTER TIES WILL ADVANCE REFORM
-------------------------------

3. (SBU) Opposition leaders believe that closer
government-to-government relations will shore up reformers in
the GOC, currently stymied by the top-heavy leadership.
Increased working-level contacts now may provide the
foundation for stronger relations in the future as the top
GOC leadership changes over time. Further, many contacts
have noted that the GOC actively employs Cuba-U.S.
hostilities as a scapegoat for everything from economic woes
to social unrest. They hope that improved relations will
weaken this excuse and hasten change by further exposing the
regime's failures. "Whatever you do, don't make the mistake
of giving them a pretext to reverse what is happening," a
dissident economist warned us.

4. (SBU) Many civil society leaders also urge a faster and
broader approach to increasing links between the two
countries. The bulk of civil society leaders support
allowing unfettered travel to and from the United States and,
although the majority supports unilaterally lifting the
embargo, they also understand that it is a significant point
of leverage. In general, they applauded the administration
for asking the GOC to take the next steps to show that it is
serious about improving conditions for its people and mending
relations with the U.S.

PATIENCE IN THE RANKS, RESULTS WON'T COME OVERNIGHT
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. (SBU) In spite of their positive assessments, most civil
society leaders do not expect significant improvements in
Cuba over the short-term. They lament that little has
changed since the transition from Fidel to Raul Castro, and
they point to the endurance of government institutions like
the military and the Communist Party, and their ability to
preserve the status quo even after the inevitable changes
that nature will force at the top. Still, they maintain
optimism that the work of Cuban activists, together with a
U.S. strategy of engagement with the GOC, in addition to
continued support of civil society, may produce results in

HAVANA 00000723 002.3 OF 002


the mid-to-long term. As one civil society leader noted:
"Fast change usually means violent change. We are working
for non-violent change. This means we have to take a long
view of our work."

LOOK FOR SIGNS OF CHANGE OUTSIDE THE GOC
----------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In addition, several opposition leaders have
cautioned against only looking for evidence of positive
change in government policy, with one well-regarded dissident
stating flatly that "this government is incapable of
responding" to Washington,s calls for changes in the human
rights arena. They point instead to efforts by diverse civil
society groups to get away with social activism and expanded
expression of ideas. Groups that have not traditionally
embraced politics, such as bloggers, cultural performers,
academics, religious and ethnic leaders and journalists, they
claim, are being increasingly successful in expanding the
space for freedom of expression. "These are the third rails,
the most vibrant sectors of society right now," a former
publisher and editor told us.

BLOGGERS ON THEIR WAY ALREADY
-----------------------------

7. (SBU) Many civil society leaders point out that bloggers
have successfully created from scratch a public forum to
carry out unheard-of discussions and government criticism, in
spite of GOC displeasure and significant limits on Internet
use on the island. When asked about why the GOC allows the
bloggers to carry on, one contact noted: "They do not allow
us this space, we have taken it." In spite of setbacks (Ref
C), the blogger community has continued to push the
boundaries of free expression in this new arena and, in doing
so, encouraged others to speak out.

NEW VOICES SPEAKING OUT
-----------------------

8. (SBU) In addition to the bloggers, artists, musicians,
journalists and academics have also begun to speak more
openly about their frustrations with the current status quo.
Some of Cuba's most famous actors and performers have come
out openly over the last three months with criticism against
GOC restrictions, particularly on access to information.
Even official newspapers have started allowing more pointed
criticism of the government -- and the journalist whose
October column was deemed too critical to publish (Ref D)
continues to rail against government bureaucracy. The
Catholic Church too gets away with not-too-subtle criticism
in homilies and publications.


COMMENT: UNPRECEDENTED CONSENSUS,
UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITY
-----------------------------------

9. (SBU) Cuba's notoriously fractured civil society is united
in support of better U.S.-Cuba relations, and cautiously
optimistic about the future. It's not so much that they
expect the GOC to change its ways, as much as it is their
belief that U.S. rapprochement will erode further the
legitimacy of the GOC while strengthening the hand of those
who support change inside and outside the regime. "The
(Cuban) government was not ready for (President) Obama," an
Afro-Cuban leader told us, "it has no idea what to do."
Cuban civil society members seem confident that, despite
setbacks, they will succeed in continuing to carve out public
spaces for free expression in the face of ongoing repression
at the hands of the government.
FARRAR

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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