HAVANA TIMES — “Ideas can’t be killed…” said Lieutenant Sarría, the dignified officer in Batista’s army who saved Fidel Castro’s life after the 1953 assault on the Moncada Barracks. Hopefully people these days — inside and outside of Cuba — will remember that from the ranks of “revolution” to those of the “intransigent exile community” there are people who make intolerance, gossip and envy a profession with their attacks and slander while ignoring the rights of others to be and to do.
Whether their targets are dissident bloggers or socialist intellectuals, such behavior has a similar undertone: personal, moral and civic lynching. They amass what seems to be a perverse innovation of Cuban political culture: the internationalization of acts of repudiation.
Although this theme comes to mind with regard to various recent events, in this first installment I’m going to discuss the shameful protests against the current visit of Yoani Sanchez in Brazil.
I’m not talking about ideologically legitimate, reasonable and ethically respectful critiques that challenge the thinking and political position of Sanchez; I’m referring to public manifestations of violence promoted by state officials — with the connotation of the law and forces that this implies —in a foreign country.
These demonstrations differ in nature from spontaneous protests of citizens who reject an unpopular politician or a corrupt businessman. They’re different from any exercise of clearly personal and autonomous opinion, transparently shared in a public forum.
The Cuban government has a long history of using these resources against its critics, inside and outside the island. Within the country, the full weight of its laws and institutions is complemented with harassment by expressly mobilized mobs.
Abroad, it counts on the support of solidarity activists who are conveniently rewarded with diplomatic receptions and tours of the “island of liberty” and the approval of seasoned old Stalinists.
But what’s more perverse is the manipulation of the faith of numerous grassroots solidarity activists — especially young ones — honest people who believe that Cuba is a left alternative to the obscene and unjustifiable problems of capitalism.
Recent history is rich with incidents such as the Guadalajara Book Fair (2002) or confrontations around Orlando Zapata death (2010). Now it isn’t idle speculation to suppose that solidarity groups were organized in advance — by Cuban embassy staff — prior to the authorization of the departure of critics like Sanchez.
In this way Havana can erase its negative image from having banned travel without ending the monitoring of critics and punishing them for their public appearances. They can present these acts of repudiation as “anti-imperialist demonstrations by their Latin American sisters and brothers.”
Fortunately, there exist congruent positions between naiveté and mercenary mindsets. I still remember the embarrassed expression of an old Mexican PRD activist when, in a debate in Xalapa, one of his comrades accused Zapata of being a mercenary and his death a product of “imperialist manipulation.”
“No,” he said to his comrade, “We’ve fought hard for democracy and justice in this country, and we cannot tolerate the repression of human rights anywhere in the world.”
In these troubled times in which we live, more than one indignant intellectual has called for the rescue of the nexus between politics and ethics as a solution to the conflicts that shake our nations.
Cuba is no exception. And along that line, the rejection of acts of repudiation — in real and virtual versions, domestic or international, Stalinist or fascistic — is an essential condition for us to get out of the mud that covers our steps and to truly behave like human beings.