David Alatorre López
This winter I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba, a country I longed to visit due to its proximity to my native country of México and the United States. Cuba has a political system that centralized political life into one single party, meaning it is illegal for other political parties to exist. Therefore, concepts such as conflict, debate and entrepreneurship have had a negative connotation in the past.
Recently, mediation and entrepreneurship became legal activities in Cuba so there is a lot of work to be done in those areas. I was able to engage with people interested in promoting mediation and conflict resolution so I shared some concepts I learned as a MILR student. The folks I met with seemed to agree that Cuba is a place where conflict resolution would be useful in order to avoid polarization, which is a commonplace phenomenon on the island. Thousands of families are divided over ideological conflict and it would be beneficial to practice mediation and conflict resolution, they stated.
From our conversations, I learned that communication is restricted in Cuba. Websites are blocked and the government tracks internet activity. This makes it very difficult for people to access information and news from abroad. Freedom of speech is severely limited as well. Since it is illegal for more than ten people to assemble, Cuba does not have meeting spaces where people can gather to talk about issues that are important to them. Dialogue that is not aligned with State policies is considered as a counter revolutionary activity (for Cubans, the word revolutionary means anything supported by the current government). It is estimated that hundreds of people are incarcerated as political prisoners since they are viewed as counter revolutionaries even if imprisoned for other illegal activities. Since mediation and entrepreneurship are now legal activities, mediation offers an opportunity for conflict resolution.
I would like to thank the ILR School, its donors and the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution for the opportunity to have this experience which has confirmed my commitment to advance mediation and conflict resolution in Latin America.
-David Alatorre López