A Modest (Transition) Proposal to Obama

“… The despotic power of the master, the husband, and the father is no engine of tyranny, but usually and naturally a tie of affection, and a means of support and protection.”

– George Fitzhugh [1]

“… ¿Qué derecho tiene ningún gobierno a arrogarse la tutela de ninguna parte del mundo?”

– Fidel Castro, March 5, 1960 [2]

“… and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations; there is simply engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values… I’ve already changed a Cuba policy that I believe has failed to advance liberty or opportunity for the  Cuban people. ”

– President Barack Obama, April 17, 2009 [3]

As a result of the Trinidad/Tobago Summit, in recent days the United States government and mass media have called  on the Cuban government to react to the good hearted  initiatives of the government in Washington, DC. Cuba is certainly thankful that such a powerful country is so interested in advancing liberty and opportunity within our island. The fact that you do not do the same with China – a huge country by comparison – only demonstrates that we Cubans are more important to you than all those millions of people in Asia.

Out of magnanimous politeness the United States government did not want to be very precise as to what it expects of us Cubans so that we can be granted the blessings of  a democratic system in our island. We do appreciate that the interests of Cubans is what guides American policy toward us, something that – obviously – we forget to do ourselves. Your selflessness is commendable, while our own self-interested behavior is certainly demeaning.

We have decided, consequently, to respond to your expectations of reciprocity. We want to be good and be like you.  Hereby we are lifting our economic embargo of the United States. Moreover, we will go the extra mile. We have come up with a number of initiatives of our own, hoping that you will be pleased and recognize us as your faithful students. The proposals should be considered our response to your substantial and magnificent first steps [i.e. letting Cuban Americans freely travel to our humble nation and do as they wish with their own money].

Please note that what follows is a request to you; it is not a  demand. If there is something in this statement that your American Congress does not like, we will be delighted to delete it and offer our apology – beforehand. As Tomas Estrada Palma, the first president you put in charge in 1901, we know that you understand our interests better than we do. We are so lucky to be so close to your shores, so you can continue acting like our father or big brother. The laws of political gravitation and geography have certainly turned us into diplomatic realists. [We are so happy to be learning the terminology!]

We know that there are many things that the American government wants for our people in Cuba but your dogged respect of our sovereignty limits your freedom to tell us what to do. Of course, these are just the first  steps in what you properly have called our necessary political transition.

The list below is part of a political roadmap as you like to say. We will be preparing a similar economic shopping list in the future in order to properly have a free economic system wide open to your highly responsible banks and financial institutions. We now realize that economic and social inequality has important political benefits. We have been wrong assuming that the poor should be involved in politics and we are certain that you will help us with that problem too. The poor should spend their time working on other things.

But let us begin with the political side of the equation: In order to have a “democratic opening” and a “multi-party elections” system in Cuba, the government of Cuba hereby requests of the Obama administration the following:

1. That Newt Gringrich and Sarah Palin be permitted to become Cuban citizens so that they may offer Cuba the proper guidance on how to set up political parties in the island. They will be put in charge of a two-party system. We realize that we do not need more than two parties, as you have shown the world through your example.

2. That the United States National Security Agency help the Cuban police modernize their surveillance technology so that we can better keep track of the congressmen we elect, as you do so well.

3. That the United States Congress lends a hand to the Cuban authorities in order to set up in Cuba a similar legal system to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, thus we can democratize listening to everyone’s conversations.  Cuba intends to ask the United States for appropriate funding in order to train personnel in the use of the equipment necessary.

4. That the United States Congress assist Cuba in setting up the legal system to allow the establishment of business lobbies within the Cuban political system. We are aware that members of Congress every day hear from the business interests and want to establish that influence in the island as well.

5. That the United States send a corps of privately financed lobby legislative coordinators to rewrite Cuban law, thereby bringing it into agreement with the lobbyist-written laws of the United States and  freeing up our future elected officials to spend time fundraising for their media-intensive campaigns.

6. That Democratic and Republican parties from the United States set up training sessions on how to raise money from private commercial,  financial interests to fund electoral campaigns. We do want the best politicians that money can buy.

7. That a team of the best Secretaries of States from around the United States be sent to Cuba to help mimic the process of stealing elections  as done in Ohio, Florida and elsewhere. We are particularly interested in learning the unique methods by which poor and non-white people can be caged.

8. That the best private election counting companies from the United States who successfully have stolen elections be sent to Cuba in order to learn the best procedures to accomplish the same transparent methods that American democracy proclaims.

9. Since we are so new at this game of political democracy we expect to have a US Assistant to Democratization within our government in Havana. Since the United States government knows so much about such matters, we will pay the salary of the US government assigned person. We will provide that person with the rank of Minister within the Council of State. Moreover, the position will have the power to veto any decision that we Cubans make. After all, we do not want to make mistakes on such serious matters as building a properly functioning democracy – something that you Americans do so well.

10. Considering that we will start from no experience on these matters of free elections, we will appreciate it if you continue the funding of dissidents and through them help us choose the best candidates for our elections and in the process you can exercise your right to give media  and financial support to the candidates you prefer for us.

11. Our mass media has not been free or balanced, like yours.  Moreover, we like the idea of making the irrelevant important and vice versa.. Send us a team of Fox News to show our media how to build party mouthpieces and we will call the effort “justo y balanceado.”

12.    It is also urgent that you send a team of Harvard professors, as you did in 1902, to rewrite our history textbooks. We truly understand the need to forget the past in order to forge ahead. We know you want us to do that, and we are willing.

Two additional comments:

We think it is wonderful to have in the United States a black  President. It is certainly much easier for us to have a black father figure up north, rather than a white one, telling us what we ought to do with all of our political institutions and economy. We are just ripe for the tutelage, a sort of “lowest-hanging fruit”.[4] We are earnestly looking forward to the plucking.

We know we can not be manifested by destiny to become a great empire.  God clearly chose only the United States for such an important role. But perhaps you could at least give us a few tips about expanding our reach. You took by war or intimidation all the land to the west of the original 13 British colonies — and then some. Maybe we could pick up just a few Caribbean islands — with your help, of course.

Nelson P Valdés is the Director of the Cuba-L Project. Ma Chetera, Saul Landau and Ned Sublette have contributed with suggestions and editorial comments to this piece.

This commentary was written for Cuba-L Analysis and CounterPunch.


[1] Louis A Pérez, Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008, p. 108


[3] 04/18/09 – US Department of State – “At Times We Sought to Dictate our Terms. But I Pledge to You that We Seek an Equal Partnership” http://cuba-l.unm.edu/?nid=67926

[4] 04/14/09 – The Washington Note – US Military Leaders Issue  Statement on America’s Cuba Policy http://cuba-l.unm.edu/?nid=67751&q=fruit&h=



Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.