By Ramon Orozco
HAVANA — Roberto Robaina Gonzalez is, at 35, the youngest member of the Cuban Communist Party Politbureau. He is travelling to Barcelona to take part in the exhibition "The image of Cuba. This is how we are." Roberto Robaina is also the first secretary of the Union of Young Communists, the red young guard of Fidel Castro.
What are the young Cuban Communists like?
In the delegation there are sports people, scientists, artists, students, trades people. We are going to Barcelona so the talent that the revolution created is known.
Is it viewed with a bit of fear, thinking that since communism isn't in fashion, you would be attacked?
I told the young people in the delegation not to pretend to find the arguments of the revolution in books or in the speeches of Fidel. Close to each Cuban family there are arguments to defend the revolution. I told them to look to their own lives and what the revolution has given them and not to deny the defects that we have.
When you land in Barcelona they we ask you a series of inevitable questions: for example, why are you a communist since that fashion has passed?
I have many reasons to feel proud to be a young communist, because of what this communism has given me. In none of the variants of any other system can a child of a bus driver and a shop assistant reach what I have reached, that is to be a professor of mathematics. I have a child that I can leave at the gates of the school and feel confident, convinced that he will be educated well and won't have a teacher who sells him drugs.
They will ask you how long the Cuban Revolution can survive alone.
If they ask me what has been the worst time, I would say '89-90. That was the moment of discovering whether we could survive, if we could grow while a world had fallen.
The world that we had been looking to fell on us. I looked at this world for 30 years, and this world was destroyed from one Sunday to Monday. To recover from this event is very hard. To say that we are so pure that it did not affect us is, in my opinion, a cardinal sin.
Are hard times coming or are they here?
At the moment the hardest thing is shortages. That is why some people ask how long can the Cuban people survive. And I can't say whether it will be two, five or 10 years. What I am honestly convinced of is the ability of the people to survive and grow in times of difficulties. The people have realised that they are trying to strangle Cuba economically so that we will fall without the Yankees firing a bullet.
Other things they will ask you: Cuba is the last dictatorship in the west?
[He laughs a lot]. In Cuba the word dictatorship is associated with something that did a lot of damage to the people. No-one can compare this government with the government of Batista, under which many people disappeared and were tortured, which was corrupt and enriched itself. For us that is a dictatorship. Evidently what we have has nothing to do with a dictatorship.
Our government is a socialist government. Our government. And I don't feel obliged to call it totalitarian, nor authoritarian, nor dictatorial, because in my opinion it is not. It bothers a lot of people that it has been the same government for 30 years. But what this government has given us is more than all previous governments put together.
The one that they call "dictator" doesn't name or dismiss ministers. Those that say we don't have free elections should look at our system of elections, which doesn't have to be like the others, a system that I think we have to perfect, and we are going down this road: the sixth congress of the party has recommended direct election of the national delegates. But what they want is for us to put Fidel on a ballot paper with various others and for him not to win.
I invite those who ask for a referendum to do one thing: to give arms to all the workers and the students like we do. What would the armed masses do to a government which they considered a dictatorship and to a dictator who has to be overthrown? That "dictator" and "dictatorship" put arms in the hands of the workers, and arms with in the basements of the factories and universities.
If the Communist Party considers itself so strong, why aren't there any other parties?
People have to understand why we have been attached to such integrated concepts: for one reason the aggressiveness of the United States. What has enabled us to triumph over this powerful imperialism has been unity. [Abridged from El Español en Australia. Translated by Camilo Jorquera.]