"I prefer a million critical voices before the silence of the dictatorships." Dilma Rousseff
Choosing the time for a presidential visit can be an exceedingly thankless task in this so unpredictable and changeable world. When the date of the visit of a head of state is placed on the agenda, announced, and reconciled with the hosts, life commonly offers up the unexpected. The government palaces don't control chance, nor anticipate the surprising events that strain the arrival of a dignitary. Dilma Rousseff knows this well. Her presence in Havana was coordinated for weeks and was even preceded by that of the foreign minister, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota. Everything seemed neatly tied up: a fast timeframe, efficient, protocol, focused on economic themes, ending with her boarding her flight to Haiti. But something complicated it.
Several days before the Brazilian economist and politician landed at Jose Marti Airport, a young Cuban died after a prolonged hunger strike. The official media threw itself into presenting him as a common criminal, although he had been arrested at an opposition march through the streets of Contramaestre. The radicalized discourse of power and the political temperature reached those levels where our rulers perform so well. In that context, the recently concluded Conference of the Cuban Communist Party became more an act of reaffirmation than of change, a statement of unity rather than an opening. Many who were waiting for an announcement of political transformations of great significance, realized that the event was, instead, the ultimate lost opportunity for the generation in power. One day after its closure, Raul Castro -- General Secretary of the only permitted party -- received Dilma Rousseff, the former guerrilla who today leads a country with diverse political forces and a highly critical press.
Dilma's Cuban agenda includes inspecting the construction work at the Port of Mariel and the possible granting of new bank credits. Brazil is our second largest trading partner in Latin America, but it's not just a question of resources. The Raul regime also has the urge, at this time, to be legitimized by other presidents in the region. So there will be smiles, handshakes, commitments to "eternal friendship" and photos, lots of photos. The civic activists, for their part, will attempt a meeting with the woman who was tortured and imprisoned during a military government, though there is little chance that she will receive them. Dilma Rousseff will converse with Raul Castro; she will be very close to him at exactly this delicate juncture in which chance has placed her. We hope she will not miss the opportunity and will comport herself consistent with the clamor for democracy, instead of opting for a complicit silence before a dictatorship.
Note: I will not know until Friday, Feb. 3, whether the Cuban authorities will finally allow me to travel for the presentation of the documentary "Cuba-Honduras Connection" in Jequie, Bahia, in Brazil. Thanks in advance to all who have done something so that I might make it to Brazil. Special thanks to Sen. Eduardo Suplicy, to the filmmaker Dado Galvao, to @xeniantunes, and to other Brazilian citizens.
Conexão Cuba Honduras -- trailer
Follow Yoani Sanchez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/yoanifromcuba