Organizations like the Federation of University Students, which were in constant conflict with the government before the Revolution, today actively contribute to the construction of Cuban society and participate in decision making processes. Photo: Ariel Cecilio Lemus

Civil society is a counterbalance to the government. At least this is the idea hegemonic powers try to impose.

However, the root of the contradiction between organizations created freely and spontaneously by citizens and the political system meant to represent them, is hardly ever addressed.

An obvious tension between these two spheres arises in the political models designed to protect the interests of the few and maintain the privileges of the ruling class.

So, what happens when a system is created by the majority for the majority? Must there necessarily exist irreconcilable differences between the system and its civil organizations?

In Cuba’s case, there is little cause for conflict as the majority of civil society institutions emerged with and from the revolutionary process.
“Ours is a state of the people and for the people which looks out for the interests of the people,” stated José Alexis Ginarte Gato, President of the National Union of Cuban Jurists (UNJC) speaking to Granma International. “It is the people that have political power,” he noted.

According to Ginarte Gato, all levels of government are composed of multifaceted structures in which campesinos, home-makers, intellectuals, teachers, doctors, and workers are represented.

“It’s a structure which allows the State to be represented by an empowered people, a people constantly working to consolidate and defend their social system,” he added.

Likewise, the President of the UNJC, explained that there exist institutions representing certain sectors or groups, like the UNJC itself, which were created to promote professional development and improve services to the population.

Ginarte Gato noted that although they may respond to specific interests, the key to avoiding conflicts between these organizations and the government is, first and foremost, the fact that they are created by the “people.”

Secondly, that their objectives match social interests, thus avoiding any conflict with the state, which supports their work.

“The Cuban political system has the capacity to generate representation across broad sectors of civil society and incorporate this representation into decision making processes,” noted Yuri Pérez, vice dean the University of Havana’s Law School, speaking to GI.

“However, this in no way means that different arguments and opinions, on any issue, can not be expressed,” she added.

According to Pérez one of the advantages of the Cuban models is citizens’ right to be involved in government, as established in Article 131 of the Constitution.

“When one undertakes a semantic analysis of the term “involvement,” it always implies active participation, because from the perspective of participation, one can also participate passively,” she explained.

For the vice dean of the Law School, this participatory capacity is directly linked to Article 3 of the Constitution: “In the Republic of Cuba, sovereignty resides in the people, from who all state power emanates. This power is exercised directly or through the Assemblies of People’s Power and affiliated state bodies, in the manner and according to the norms established by the Constitution and law. Every citizen has the right to fight - by any means, including armed struggle when no option remains - against any attempt to overthrow the political, social and economic order established by the Constitution.”

Although Cuba is not the only case, it constitutes a good example of how much can be achieved when the government and society work together to build and implement policies which have been democratically debated and approved by the masses.
Progress in this regard isn’t just limited to the public sector but also includes private workers who enjoy equal rights.

Jorge Gútiez Sánchez, representative of the Union of Non-state Workers, speaking to GI, described the social guarantees enjoyed by in this sector.

“We greatly appreciate everything the Cuban government has provided for us ever since our creation,” he stated, while noting that the humanist character of the Revolution encourages people to value an individual’s principles and not the amount of money they have.

“We have a broad civil society and we support our government for everything it has done for our families, and our sources of employment,” he stated.

Gútiez, is one of the Cuban delegates attending the Civil Society Forum at the Eighth Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru.

“We can have frank debates in any setting, about the things we have enjoyed a long time here in Cuba,” he noted. “Although we might not agree with some positions, we have the moral authority to argue that there is a civil society willing to engage in dialogue, always based on the well-being of, and respect for, our people.”

Although the main concern for the region is popular struggles and the violation of citizens’ fundamental rights, the Forum organized by the Organization of American States, has been manipulated to impose certain political formulas and social models.

As Cuba has rightly denounced, it is also used to legitimize individuals sponsored from aboard as representatives of a society which they do not represent or have any longstanding affiliation with.

“Cuban civil society will not share any space with mercenary elements and organizations financed from abroad and responding to the interests of a foreign power, with an overtly subversive and violent agenda,” stated Yamila González Ferrer, vice president of the UNJC, and representative of coalition 15, in which the majority of Cuban delegates to the Summit of the Americas Forum are participating.

“They come to these events to provoke and seek the legitimacy and recognition they lack within Cuban society, something we consider totally unacceptable,” she stated.

Those still attempting to disregard our true representatives, as a result of their supposed affiliation with the government, are overlooking the fact that it was the revolutionary process of January 1, 1959, that won the nation’s sovereignty, without which it would be impossible for the Cuban people to be legitimately represented in Peru, or anywhere else in the world.