Ag. 31, 1998: Newsgroups soc.culture.cuba, soc.culture.caribbean, alt.politics.usa.congress, alt.politics.usa.misc, alt.revolution.counter,,, it.politica.cattolici,, can.politics

Sept. 5, 1998: Diario Las Américas, Miami (translation)

"Conflict Resolution", Cuba & Colombia

Gonzalo Guimaraens

"Conflict Resolution:" a new diplomatic weapon in Castro's hands? We
will present some elements that contribute to answer this question. But
first, let us explore the true meaning of that Anglo-Saxon expression,

and its possible implications.
It generically denominates a group of theories and techniques of
psychological, political, social, anthropological, etc., nature, - which
is fashionable in different academic centers in the United States and
Europe - that as its objective is the solution of conflicts, through
negotiation and dialogue, with the previous identification of common
goals between the parties. "Conflict resolution" is defended by its
proponents, as a saving formula, almost talismanic, to put an end to
conflicts that - like some resistant strains and genetically mutant
viruses - flourish everywhere in this enigmatic period called the
post-cold war.

On the other hand, and not falling to false illusions that will only
strengthen the resistance of certain viruses acting upon society, we
should know the limits that the specialists on the practice of conflict
resolution give to its own discipline. They affirm that it is feasible to
contribute successfully to the resolution of problems, when they are
generated by conflict of interests, which are related to the possibility
to establish common objectives to be met. This is what usually happens
at the labor, community and regional level and certain international
situations. Some of the positive results obtained in these fields are,
without a doubt, praiseworthy.

Nevertheless, as Dimo Yagcioglu of the Institute for Conflict Analysis
& Resolution (ICAR) of George Mason University indicates, it is much
more difficult to apply the theory to conflicts that turn up from a
crash of antagonistic principles and values, where the common goals do
not exist and they are not even possibly attainable. Also, the
aforementioned scholar adds, that there exists the risk that in a
process of conflict resolution, this is undermined if for example, one
of the parties does not act with sincerity, as it intends solely to gain
for itself, fooling the other party.

Confronted before these premises, the Cuban chancellery has demonstrated
an interest in relation to the theories of conflict resolution,
something practically unknown to the public. In May of 1996 and in
October of 1997, specialists from the Conflict Resolution Research and
Resource Institute (CRI) of the United States, traveled to Havana to
teach courses to officials from the Foreign Ministry, under the
suggestive theme of negotiating for the international collaboration. In
1998, there are new courses being offered by the CRI, to Cuban
diplomats, with the help of specialists from the Institute for
Multi-Track Diplomacy, Washington, D.C. Also the Institute for Cuban
Studies of Tulane University, is organizing together with the University
of Havana, a series of courses about "training trainers" in the area of
conflict resolution.

The lack of confidence that legitimately comes forth, is that the Cuban
regime is turning to its favor the elaborate negotiation "know-how" that
this discipline provides, not necessarily to solve conflicts, but rather
to gain advantageous and favorable image at international level. For
example, making gestures with conciliatory appearance to the United
States, with the objective to awaken false expectations, demobilize the
anti-Communist reactions and obtain a favorable climate for the lifting
of the embargo; at the same time maintaining an internal tenacious
political-commune State. It would be naive to put aside this hypothesis.

In the last few months, there has been various signals with a common
denominator that have been sent from Havana to Washington. For example,
a public offering of Cuban vaccines against meningitis to protect
American children; statements from high-ranking officials from the
Oficina de Intereses Cubanos (Office of Cuban Interests), in Washington,
saying that "we prefer to look at the future, not the past," and that it
is necessary to be above the "Cold War mentality;" praises from Castro
to the American president, saying that he seems to be "a man of peace;"
recent statements from the Cuban Vice-chancellor in the sense that "Cuba
is ready to negotiate with the United States;" tours from Cuban artists,

These signals and others that could be mentioned, are blown-up in the
United States by well-known entities and the media, favorable to the
unconditional renewal of relations with Castro. And in a way, they
contribute to disintegrate in the public opinion, the deserved image of
radicality and obstinacy of the communist regime.

It is foreseeable that in an eventual post-Castro scenario with
"ex"-communists in key positions of the new government, the charming
power of similar conciliatory signals could multiply, even though its
sincerity is far from being proven. As it could infer the
anti-Communists grave mistakes in the political interpretation.

Another country in which at short and medium terms, the left will take
advantage of negotiations in conflict resolution, is Colombia, where the
Castro-inspired guerrillas, are ready for a sincere dialogue, even
though at the same time, have started a new wave of violence,
kidnappings and assassinations. Sometime ago, Canadian professor Adarn
Kahane, presented by the media as a "guru regarding negotiations of
conflict." suggested to Colombia individual "recipes for peace:" "forget
the past," "do not arrive with pre-defined positions" to the negotiating
table, only "talk about the future" and "reconstruct unanimity around
common themes."

Put into practice, the ideas of professor Kahane could lead towards a
psychological and doctrinal demobilization of those who are opposed to
the Marxist guerrillas, persuading them to tolerate their principles and
accept pseudo-solutions that would leave the guerrillas in an
advantageous strategic position. Even more so, when they (the
guerrillas) have already announced that they are not willing to give up
the armed struggle and their revolutionary recovery. In reality, similar
propositions to professor Kahane's, have been used by the world's left,
to apply that which the illustrious catholic thinker, professor Plinio
Correa de Oliveira, knowledgeably characterized as an "inadvertent
ideological transshipment" strategy. This characterization by Dr. Plinio
describes the subtle methods of subconscious ideological infiltration
utilized by Communism to perform the change, in an unperceived manner,
of the ideas of an ever-growing number of people.

Obviously we do not condemn conflict resolution through conversations,
as long as these do not demand an abandonment of fundamental principles,
as are those of a Christian civilization. We are against any attempt to
benefit from these elaborate negotiation techniques, when one of the
parties - in this case, the Cuban communists and the Colombian
guerrillas - intend to use them as a means to continue the war through
other methods.

The author of this article is a Uruguayan political analyst, specialist
in Cuban affairs.