"There can be no pardon when there has been no justice." — José Martí, "Pushkin," 1880 [original in English]
The word "reconciliation" does not need to be defined. Everybody understands what it means and what it does not mean. Everybody, of course, except Cuba's Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Miami businessman Carlos Saladrigas: the one appointed by a foreigner to be a spokesman for Cubans on the island and the other appointed by the U.S. media to represent Cubans in exile. Their personal "reconciliation" would certainly be a success; in fact, we should be surprised if it were not already consummated. What relevance such a "meeting of minds" (and appetites) would have for the future of our country is another matter. Their followers, supposing they have any who are not on their payrolls, will propagate their gospel of reconciling the irreconcilable. Good and evil can never meet on a common plane without one ceding place to the other. Either good must be corrupted or evil reformed. And before there can be a reconciliation there must first be a conciliation.
A word much less commonly used today than reconciliation, and usually used incorrectly, "conciliation" is not synonymous with "reconciliation," nor is it the action which is repeated in reconciliation. As pertains to governance, conciliation means to gain the people's favor with acts that benefit and please them, which necessarily entails abstaining from behavior that would hurt and alienate them. Reconciliation denotes a failure of conciliation: either there has been no effort on the part of the rulers to win the good-will of the people, or the effort has been insufficient by miscalculation or design. After 53 years, it is safe to say that conciliation has failed in Cuba because of the policy of its rulers.
There can, of course, be no reconciliation without conciliation, just as it is impossible to "reintroduce" what was never introduced, "reformulate" what was never formulated, or "recombine" what was never combined. Those who clamor for "reconciliation" between the Cuban people and Castro's police state, or between those who oppose Communism and those who support it, or between anti-Castro exiles and Castro's agents in the U.S. — quite apart from the incongruity of expecting forgiveness from the victims but not contrition from the henchmen — have disposed of conciliation as an obstacle to reconciliation when it is in fact the only path to it.
The oppressors must, at least, cease to oppress for there to exist any possibility of reconciliation. The apparatus of tyranny must disappear, and, yes, also the tyrants. Justice must be done. Then those who have vilified themselves in the service of tyranny may seek redemption by repudiating their indenture to evil and paying whatever lawful price their crimes may merit. Then and only then, when the oppressors have done all in their power to right the wrongs they have committed, achieving conciliation through this means — though never wholly expiating their sins, which would be impossible — then and not before will reconciliation be an option. Even then, it will be the victims that will set the terms, not the tyrants or the tyrants' lackeys.
Reconciliations work best when there is equal blame on both sides, or, at least, some blame in common. When all the blame is on one side only, it is not really reconciliation but forgiveness that should be sought by the offending party. In the end, however, whether for reconciliation or forgiveness, the same criterion holds: "There can be no pardon when there has been no justice."