Repudiation Across Borders (Part II)

Armando Chaguaceda

Winter in Havana. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — In my previous post I talked about smear campaigns and “acts of repudiation” orchestrated from Havana against critics of the Cuban “establishment.”

However, from the ideological extremes there also exists a sector of the exile community — trapped by their anti-communist hatred — that magnifies their grudge and suspicion. As such, they hinder the necessary atmosphere of plurality and dialogue we increasingly need between all Cubans.

Although they don’t have the power of a centralized state, their media access, funding and organizational machinery provide for their existence and make possible their aggressive disposition.

On several occasions over the last few days, some of my friends and I were the objects of varying degrees of attack by these elements. For the most part I haven’t responded, considering everyone’s right to express themselves and how counterproductive a confrontation with such observers can be.

The “sins” of identifying myself with social movements critical of neo-liberal capitalism, defending the work of radical intellectuals living on the island and believing that revolutionary Cuba did good things were translated into my being an “accomplice of terrorists,” an “apologist for murder,” and a “manipulator of history.”

These shocking “arguments” were enough for them to create another file on me with materials that substantiated my outdated and abetting leftism.

This clan has its own genealogy. The most rabid and unthinking of them seem to have inherited the banners of those who, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, led violent terrorizing attacks in Florida against their émigré compatriots – people who simply wanted to visit family members in their native country.

Intolerant attitudes such as those mentioned here are inherently undemocratic, and because — given their connotations for the public sphere — these need to be rejected.

They are the same folks who in recent years boycotted the performances of artists from the island and used a steamroller to crush CDs by Juanes for him having dared — with the identical bitterness of the island’s officials — to organize songs for peace in the heart of the Cuban capital.

Fortunately, cultural and sociological change in the émigré community makes these people a minority demographically (though not politically). What’s even more encouraging is that their numbers are declining.

Social, racial and ideological diversity is growing and becoming an attribute shared across the transnational Cuban community, in all its locations. It’s pulling the rug out from under those who —  by the weight of their years, political expediency or their desperation to reverse politics — continue to fuel the flow of intolerance, which only positions the hardliners as the helmsmen of Cuban politics and holds the rest of their compatriots hostage.

When some people feel entitled to indiscriminately insult and threaten those who disagree with their closed discourse, they’re making a reverse yet faithful copy of the script that’s cranked out at the Ideological Department of the Cuban Communist Party.

Those who act in this manner are forgetting that overcoming the dominant authoritarianism within Cuban political culture requires removing old and new pantheons of saints and demons.

There’s no indisputable historical truth (neither that of the Machiavellian revolution being betrayed by Castro nor the commander-in-chief having brilliantly guided the epic). What’s more, Cuban society has changed significantly since 1959 – both for good and for bad.

These people remember the armed conflict in the Escambray mountains but ignore the Literacy Campaign. They magnify the Mariel boatlift but minimize the social equity achieved in those years. They idealize the pre-revolutionary era — even “omitting” many of Batista’s crimes — while casting a black cloak over all subsequent history.

Fortunately, cultural and sociological change in the émigré community makes these people a minority demographically (though not politically). What’s even more encouraging is that their numbers are declining.

The “Taliban” of the far right persist with the idea that anyone who honestly believed (or still believes) in a socialist and democratic alternative for the future of Cuba must atone for the sins of others – and therefore they must beg for forgiveness for the mistakes and violence committed by their leaders.

I hold due respect for the human drama that the triumph of the political alternative led by Fidel Castro meant for those decent Cubans — not the oligarchs, terrorists or henchmen of Batista — whose nationalist, Christian and/or libertarian beliefs distanced them from the path taken by the revolution.

Their testimonies about the internal conflict and abduction of certain rights resulting from the implementation of state socialism are indispensable for a transparent understanding of the island’s political process.

Although we don’t share a common view of the contemporary history of the country — particularly concerning the events of the ‘60s and ‘70s — I think their experiences are part of our national memory and will eventually be incorporated into a process of dialogue and national reconciliation.

In short, if we consider the fanatical practice of “acts of repudiation” as a (false) substitute for civic debate — where defamation takes the place of arguments, and threats supplant deliberation — I see no other choice but to reject them in any of their ideological manifestations or geographic coordinates.

I say this because intolerant attitudes such as those mentioned here are inherently undemocratic, and because — given their connotations for the public sphere — these need to be rejected.

Overcoming them is an essential step for the better country we want to bequeath to our progeny.


Armando Chaguaceda

Armando Chaguaceda: My curriculum vitae presents me as a historian and political scientist. I'm from an unclassifiable generation who collected the achievements, frustrations and promises of the Cuban Revolution and now resists on the island or contributes through numerous websites, trying to remain human without dying in the attempt.

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