Havana Times has published an extensive interview with Mariela Castro Espín, Raúl Castro’s daughter, which is best known for her work in defense of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals in Cuba as director of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) and the principal initiator of a resolution approved in mid-2008 for performing sex change operations within the Cuban state health care system. In the interview Castro Espín discusses her idea of a dynamic socialism that can change to accommodate itself to the needs of the Cuban population. He also discusses United States President Barack Obama at some length. Here are some excerpts. The link below will take you to the full interview.
IPS: With Barack Obama assuming the presidency of the United States, people have spoken a great deal about the possibility of that country easing its sanctions against Cuba. How do you imagine the island without the blockade?
MCE: A Cuba without blockade is a Cuba that will prosper. This is what I requested of St. Peter when I went to the Vatican, prosperity for Cuba. First I planned to ask for the end of the blockade, but I told myself that this would only be a part of the solution. We need prosperity, with or without the blockade.
The day they lift the blockade they will remove a very great weight from us so that we can survive in connection with the world.
But along with that it will be fundamental to improve the mechanisms of socialist democracy, because the lifting of the blockade in itself won’t impel prosperity. We have to improve our social system.
IPS: What do you think of the theory that the Cuban socialist system cannot withstand the impact of the lifting of the blockade?
MCE: To be alive is to be in danger, and the Cuban Revolution has always been in danger. Is it possible to have been subjected to more danger than what we’ve already been through? – I don’t think so. I believe it will be an opportunity, a dangerous one, but an opportunity, and we have to take maximum advantage of it.
It will be fundamental for Cuba, as it would be for any country. What country can survive a blockade? Cuba survived, but at a high cost – in many senses.
IPS: Do you share the opinion that we live in a country in which everything is seen through the perspective of its relations with the United States?
MCE: Everything is related to it. We have developed a culture of the blockade and we’ll have to learn the lessons of life without the blockade of Cuba, which wants to survive with a socialist system. In my opinion, it must be a system that is more prone to development, more inclusive and more dialectical.
Socialism cannot lose its dialectical focus of interpretation and development if we’re to withstand the impact of lifting the blockade. Everything that we do will have to be as a function of guaranteeing our sovereignty, without neglecting the internal mechanisms that mustn’t be as narrow as they have been.
I still have the energy, hope and strength to continue fighting for this socialism. I know that the Revolution has developed many defense mechanisms in the face of the constant hostility from the US imperialism and all its vast resources.
And that’s not just some trite phrase; it’s an expansive, intensive, very cruel imperial system, and it’s necessary to continue fighting, to not back down in the face of violence, in the face of the pressures that we will continue to confront.
When there is conviction on a road, you don’t yield. What’s most important is that we take this journey along the most intelligent route possible.
IPS: …that you don’t veer against the Cuban people themselves?
MCE: Exactly, that we don’t veer against ourselves. For that reason the development of participatory mechanisms is the key. How do we want Cuban socialism to be? How do we want to build it? How will we do it? And what are the principles that we cannot give up?
Of course, we must retain our national dignity, sovereignty, and social justice, so that in the search for development we don’t fall for mechanisms of exploitation, but there are indeed other mechanisms – perhaps ones of cooperation in the economic plane – that can allow us to prosper, to satisfy the population’s growing needs, perhaps through the fiscal policy, the possibilities of the state…
IPS: What do you expect from Obama?
MCE: In my personal opinion, he doesn’t have very good advisers on Cuba or on Latin America. I hope that we can have dialogue, a rapprochement. From his personal biography I find him to be a wonderful person, but now that he has assumed the role of president he has to wear another suit, and that’s difficult. I imagine that he wanted to do many things that he now can’t.
IPS: Do you think that, although Obama may not achieve substantial changes during his office, the single fact of his having been elected is an important symptom of change?
MCE: Yes, but the world needs a response from Obama. The world needs changes in the United States, a country that demands so many changes on the world in the interests of small circles of power.
The world is demanding the United States make deep changes to survive.
We cannot hope that the United States will cease being an empire, for the time being, and much less simply because of Obama, but at least the fact that Americans have chosen him is a symptom that they too want change.
As they say in Santería (an Afro-Cuban religion) when you want to wish someone luck, you always say Aché. So I say Aché Obama; so that he accomplishes all he can, all that’s possible.
For the full interview go to http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=10543