The most commonly asked question about Cuba is “when”, as in “when will the government change?” or “when will Castro fall?” and that’s anybody’s guess. But one equally important question – which not many people have taken the time to come up with an answer – is “what will happen next?” Yet, while it is hard to determine when or in which way will the Cuban transition happen –and is it already happening?– one thing we can do is prepare to answer the questions of how to reunite and reconcile the Cuban nation when the time comes.
I think the Cuba Study Group’s recently-announced Reconciliation Project is an important step towards this goal. I had the pleasure to attend the conference where the project was launched, and to listen to the speakers talk from their own experiences about the successes and the hard road of reconciliation in countries such as South Africa and Ireland. There is much we can learn from them. I will be writing soon and in more detail about my impressions of the conference (I also recommend reading the transcripts and watching the videos of the presentations, especially those of South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool and Irish MP Pat Doherty) but if there was an overarching lesson in my opinion, it was this: reconciliation must be a restorative process, not a punitive one, and it only works when both sides feel they can trust and count on the best faith efforts of the other side. It is a long and difficult process, but as I looked at a room filled with legitimate and serious representatives of the diversity of opinion of the Cuban diaspora, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful that there is a will and there will be a way to accomplish it.