By Armando Chaguaceda
HAVANA TIMES – Although I am quarantined in this picturesque Mexican community, I have never been so connected with my native Cuba. I spend the day talking to colleagues, friends and family on the island. Linking people, consulting experts, seeking all help from afar.
Connected to a Cuba where the real but late, erratic but potentially effective reaction of the State is combined with recklessness -daughter of poverty and lightness- and the gradual awareness of the people.
A country where solidarity and authoritarianism, education and poverty, exhaustion and creativity coexist. My mother – who for reasons of age, chance and geography is not an Internet person – and her close surroundings are a mixture of all that. Without a doubt, I have never had less distance – informative or emotional – with that Cuba that I abandoned without return almost ten years ago.
Having said this, I believe that we Cubans should be more than ever, wherever we are, citizens. Nothing and no one has reason to suspend that status. This involves exercising informed opinion – that exposes to the government its errors, abuses and omissions, but that also recognizes and supports its correct decisions – and helps in civic development, spreading verified information and contributing resources – remittances, among others- that can help our people.
If those who rule ignore us or block us, let it never be because we didn’t make the effort, that we didn’t demand it.
It is real that we live in a global emergency, which justifies radical measures on the part of governments. And these curtail freedoms. In that sense, I agree with what the Cuban State has done because it is the same thing that we have demanded for days past. The point is that rights can be restricted without eliminating the right to demand and defend them. There is an old and solid reflection on that: on the exercise of citizenship in states of exception.
In Cuba, authoritarianism, which precedes the pandemic, will take this real situation as a pretext. The authoritarianism that is permanent, not an exception. They will use it to be even more authoritative. So: is there no way out, citizens?
I believe that there is, in the simultaneous support for the emergency measures -closure of borders and schools, home confinement-, justified by the pandemic, at the same time that we denounce the usual repressions including the arrest of activists and journalists who are not violating the quarantine, and the censorship of publications and networks under the pretext of crisis.
In Germany, for example, the measures are very drastic today – no more than two people in public places – but so far there are no closed newspapers or imprisoned opponents. In Russia, opponents of Putin’s constitutional reform have staged protests in compliance with sanitary measures by the authorities. A civic reflection like Merkel’s, makes clear the democratic foundations and limits in facing an emergency like the one we are facing today.
We must insist, as a friend says, that “we are connected”. We already know that, when we meet and act, when many do and well, the government – always jealous, always vigilant – reacts. Sometimes even for the common good.
I speak here without a hint of condescension or comfort. I am realistic and atheist. I am aware that the disease will devastate our lands, that it will take some of our dear ones. If not ourselves.
We are in an unknown and unequal struggle for life. When it passes, we’ll have to draw the conclusions of how we got there. What human acts accelerated the pandemic? What are the lessons for what follows? All that will be tomorrow.
However, today is about surviving. As individuals, families, nations, and species.
In Cuba, it was said that almost all of us entered the crisis called the Special Period – almost all of us – united; but we got out one by one. Now it’s about freeing ourselves all together, without possible evasion. A joining that is not a barracks, submission or flock. But, instead, the just and possible defense of our bit of humanity. Take good care of yourselves, compatriots!