Cuba needs its emigrants, and they need Cuba too

There is widespread consensus in Cuba that the country needs a policy aimed at a progressive integration of its emigration into the functioning of the nation and the satisfaction of its development goals. Moreover, this constitutes the feeling of a majority of Cuban families affected by the uprooting of many of their children.

Likewise, a majority of those who have emigrated support everything that improves relations with Cuban society; and a variety of organizations in many countries work in favor of this improvement. However it’s not as simple as this. Working against such improvement is the many major confrontations that have generated hatred and misunderstanding, and that conspire against this process, with their origin in the Cuba-U.S. conflict.

Furthermore, the resistance offered by the powerful Cuban-American extreme right machinery who feeds these contradictions, and has a significant influence on American politics and on the attitudes of Cuban emigrants residing in the United States must be overcome. In these circumstances, at least in most cases, Cuba’s relations with its emigration cannot be built on doctrinal bases, beyond common respect for the independence and sovereignty of the nation.

Regardless of recognition of errors, excesses and injustices that may have been committed at a given moment, it would be foolish to suppose that, in order to achieve an understanding, Cuban revolutionaries renounce a work of which they are proud, that, among other things, has benefited the majority of the population, even a good part of the current emigrants.

Cuba’s migrants must also review a historical behavior that, with the excuse of fighting communism, has served as shelter for the worst aggressions against their country of origin. But one cannot expect our emigrants to modify their ideology, whatever it is — not even the criteria that determine their political preferences, even if they are in opposition to the Cuban socialist system.

So a dialogue is needed that does not focus on ideological and political differences, but is based on respect for very diverse positions — that’s why it is called dialogue — with the aim of identifying areas of interest and common benefit that consolidate, in practice, the possible links that fall under the prism of good for the nation.

For Cuba, it is of strategic importance to integrate its immigrants into the life of the country and thus mitigate its most negative demographic, social and economic impacts. Permanent contact with Cuban society is also vital for emigrants, not only because of what family ties mean, but because it contributes to their own identity and that of their descendants, especially those who live in the United States.

Cuban policy must promote a sense of belonging among emigrants that, in addition to the sentimental and cultural, is based on legal support of its citizens, as well as on access to social and economic benefits that result from their connection with Cuba. Feeling protected by the Cuban health system, or the possibility that young immigrants study in the country, has been a historical demand of various sectors of the country’s emigration, which in practice was satisfied by those who left the country as a result of the reforms to the 2013 immigration law that could be extended to the rest.

Similarly, doing business in or with Cuba, or acquiring property in the country, cannot be seen as a favor from its emigrants, but rather as a mutually convenient investment which the government must protect and the emigrants defend in correspondence with their own interests.

Stimulating cultural and sports exchanges would benefit everyone and contribute to the national heritage and prestige. In the same way, it would contribute to the improvement of relations, encourage the contribution of emigrants to projects of social benefit, without it being perceived as charitable. The feeling that it is fair to give back to the society that contributed to their formation is present in many emigrants and to accept it with dignity is an appreciated gesture.

This reality cannot be constructed solely “for emigrants,” as has sometimes been attempted, but must be the natural result of economic reforms approved in the country and their extension to other aspects of national life. The point is to assume a more inclusive role in Cuban society, regardless of U.S. politics and the forces that try to divide it.

Although it may seem like a utopia, this is not impossible. It is a way of caring for our young people, wherever they live, and offer them a different perspective on the migration issue and the relationship with its emigration.