It’s already been six days since President Obama left Cuba, but his words continue to resonate in the minds and hearts of the Cuban people. The regime’s ideological machinery that we refer to as Raulismo knows this and began a furious propaganda campaign to inoculate into the psyche of my countrymen as soon as the president boarded his plane to fly off to Argentina the idea that Obama is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
His ethnicity (65 percent of Cuban citizens are black or mixed race), his success story (he became the most powerful man on the planet without being rich), the family image that accompanied him and above all, his speech that is full of hope and with an eye toward the future, fits into the imagination of a people who have only been listening to the monolithic siege mentality discourse (of the regime) that for decades has insisted on postponing dreams and aspirations of the Caribbean people to a heavenly tomorrow that never arrives and is postponed indefinitely in time.
The president turned his back on the protocolar language that characterizes the diplomatic realm and he came to speak to the average Cuban without mincing words. He spoke one on one to the man, to the woman, to the black person, to the homosexual. He called for respect for our community and framed the issue of our liberties within the context of universal human rights.
He then saw fit to speak privately with more than a dozen activists from independent Cuban civil society. Representatives of the LGBTI community — two well-known leaders who know first hand the humiliation that this machista regime has dealt the LGBTI community — were among those present with whom we struggle to win the rights that are denied to this segment of society.
Our colleagues presented a concise synopsis of the abuses and violations that the Castros have committed for decades in the obsessively homophobic eagerness to eradicate us.
In passing, our colleagues demanded that the historic requirements that we champion be included in the human rights dialogue that both governments support.
If anything were to remain behind of what was said by the person who resides in the White House today, it would be his clarification that the island’s destiny should have been shaped by the Cuban people. And that moreover within the independent Cuban civil society movement — particularly like the one I preside over — there is nobody who is thinking that the superpower will come to save us.
While we thank Obama for acknowledging it, it is clear to us that social changes need to be conceived and executed by Cubans themselves. But this platitude is not divorced from what is desired and desirable, that governments and people show solidarity with causes like those that we advocate.
This does not mean that Obama should speak about the forced labor camps in which thousands of homosexuals were held, nor the marginalization that transsexuals suffer in education and work centers or the attempts that the official government line makes within an organization like National Center for Sexual Education, whose real agenda is to create a smokescreen to create the illusion that Cuba is inclusive of the homosexual.
Obama’s visit in any case served to give visibility to the sector of the gay community that has been marginalized because it kept itself independent from the regime. He has been the only head of state to visit Cuba who has mentioned in a public speech the need to respect the rights of homosexuals, and meet with and listened to LGBTI activists.
Taking this into account, I conclude that for the first time in decades the words of a foreign politician were directed toward the Cuban people and not the government. The satisfaction that overwhelms me is not mine alone. It similarly now affects millions of my brothers and sisters. The influence that U.S. President Barack Obama’s words has left behind will be felt for many years to come.
Nelson Gandulla Díaz is president of the Cuban Foundation for LGBTI Rights, an independent Cuban advocacy group.