HAVANA TIMES, Dec 11 — A few years ago, at the height of the political campaign known as the “Battle of Ideas,” Havana was paralyzed with unusually frequent mobilizations of hundreds of thousands of people — all of which paid for with public resources — in the well-known “Marches of the Combative People” and the “Open Forums.”
Following the struggle for the return of Elian Gonzales (an effort whose correctness won the support of large segments of the population and world public opinion), there began a vigorous routine whereby each week new marches were convened, yet these mass demonstrations were around causes distant from the concrete interests and needs of people in the faltering economy.
Such actions were decided upon by a sort of central command led by Fidel and made up of the so-called “Taliban” leaders of the Young Communists, whose capacity for submissiveness, posturing and corruption were inversely proportional to their qualities of humanism, political commitment and administrative honesty.
I remember one evening at the University of Havana when, responding to my criticism of the unsustainability of such mobilizations, a leader of that coterie cried out to me, “But that’s not the logic of it all, professor.”
And surely that luminary was right, especially since he hadn’t been with the old woman who was crying at a bus stop, stranded out in the outlying Alamar neighborhood because the day’s march had virtually hijacked all of our public buses. Since she didn’t have money to take a private taxi, she missed the doctor’s appointment for which she had waited months.
But not only in the realm of bureaucracy do these things happen, because the logic of an unfettered market plays on the helplessness of common people. This afternoon I recalled the impunity with which the powerful operate, paralyzing the city where I live (Xalapa) by the glamorous arrival of the “Coca Cola Caravan,” a private mass public relations campaign to mobilize market demand for that soft drink.
Once again, normal street traffic was blocked for several hours, with the diligent support of transportation officials who ignored our demands. Enormous trucks filled with cases of the refreshment prevented buses from circulating along their routes, obstructing the exits of markets and affecting citizens at a time (immediately after working hours) when many of them were concerned about getting their groceries home.
The cheerful members of this caravan created chaos, with rows of hypnotized people planted along street curbs, or immobilized — for hours — at the doors of shopping centers and other private or government buildings.
When things like that happen, one has to ask themself the reasons why governments and companies, which talk about “the common good” and claim to represent the “public,” show such disrespect for the rights of the people, regardless of their ideological bias.
The answer is clear: It’s because the arrogance and manipulation of the powerful reinforces the impunity that all too often shields and protects them in each one with their acts. But also because the people — meaning each one of us — let them do it.