After 52 years, a little debate is good in Cuba

After Cuban opposition leader Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and others made public their disagreement with the document titled “The People’s Path,” which lays out a possible road to the end of dictatorship in Cuba, there are some who are attempting to make hay of the debate going on in Cuba between the members of the dissidence and opposition. The truth is that this debate is the healthiest thing that can happen for democracy activists on the island. After fifty-two years of one party, one ideology, one power, one dictator, one revolution, one employer, as Marc at Uncommon Sense succinctly and correctly points out, unanimity is the last thing Cuba needs.

The last thing a free Cuba needs is unanimity

“The People’s Path” is not quite a constitution but rather a vision statement of what the movement for a free Cuba should be striving for. Just about everything it calls for, Cuba needs.

The document has been signed by several dozen leading dissidents, of varying ideological stripes, in Cuba and in exile overseas, indicating a certain level of broad support.

One notable exception is the former prisoner of conscience Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, who dismissed “The People’s Path” as “intensely socialist.” He has promised to release his own blueprint soon.

Biscet is not just any Cuban dissident. Many have imagined him as the first president of a free Cuba, so his criticisms have been taken to heart.

And they have, at first glance, left him isolated, as Oswaldo Paya, the document’s author, has lashed out sharply at Biscet; and other signatories — including some former prisoners who like Biscet chose more time in jail than accept forced exile overseas — have defended their participation. It is worth noting, however, that Armando Valladares, one of Cuba’s longest imprisoned dissidents, has sided with Biscet.

I will leave to others to dissect “The People’s Path,” and I am likely to never pick a side.

But the debate that the document, and Biscet’s disapproval have sparked, are nothing but healthy for Cuban opposition and the cause of Cuban freedom. Certainly, the Castro regime and others will try to stoke the division for their benefit of their positions, but that is nothing compared to the image of Cubans arguing and debating what freedom will look like on that inevitable day when Cuba is free.

Achieving freedom and nurturing it so that it is never again stolen by a dictator will not be easy. And what should be done will never be agreed to unanimously. Cuba has had that more than 52 years and look at how that has turned out.

Paya deserves credit for offering “The People’s Path,” and Biscet should be applauded for dissenting.

That sort of give and take, sometimes bitter, between men with identical goals, but differing views on how to get there, helped build a free America. Debate is at the essence of democracy.

We should not expect or hope for anything less for Cuba.

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