Marihuana, Roberto Carcasses, the Observatorio Critico Network and the Future of Latin America and the Caribbean

Dmitri Prieto

Roberto Carcasses

HAVANA TIMES — In a text circulated by Cuba’s Observatorio Critico Network this past 17th of October, this autonomous group expressed its support for Cuban musician Roberto Carcasses, singer for and chief promoter of the band Interactivo, who had been sanctioned by culture-sector bureaucrats of the Cuban State following a number of remarks made by the artist during a concert held at Havana’s Anti-Imperialist Tribune.

The concert, calling for the release of the 4 Cuban agents still serving prison terms in the United States, was a massive event aimed at commemorating the arrest of the Cuban Five fifteen years ago.

At the close of his performance, Carcasses sang the following improvised lyrics: “I want freedom for the Five and freedom for Maria. Free access to information, so as to be able to have my own opinions. Freedom to choose my president through a direct vote, not any other way. I want the blockade, and our self-imposed blockade to end, please. No militants or dissidents, just Cubans with the same rights. I already have the letter, so what’s going on with my car?”

These comments were considered inopportune by bureaucrats of Cuba’s nomenklatura, for, with these, the artist – using common, everyday language – seemed be equating the cause of the Cuban Five with the legalization of marihuana, free access to the Internet, the election of the island’s top leadership through direct vote and the elimination of both the US embargo/blockade on Cuba and the bureaucratic totalitarianism that still curtails the creativity of the Cuban people.

The artist’s call for fraternity and equal rights was followed by a kind of petition, asking the government to facilitate the purchase of a new car, a transaction which still involves a complicated bureaucratic procedure in Cuba.

The bureaucracy “didn’t” understand how the official (and humanitarian) cause of the Cuban Five could be equated with the rest of Carcasses’ petitions, demands which, I imagine, smelt of brimstone and heresy for no few government officials. They tried to deny him the right to continue performing in public, but the attempt came to naught thanks to fairly strong pressures.

I wonder: how heretical is Carcasses’ posture when compared to what’s going on today in other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, with which, to be sure, Cuba and its government maintain relations of friendship and cooperation?

Latin America and the Caribbean are moving towards a future in which the consumption of marihuana will likely be legal or tolerated. Massive protests have been staged to demand the right to cultivate the herb and, only a few days ago, Telesur news – which can now luckily be viewed, unedited, in Cuba – scrolled a headline which read: “Uruguay to import marihuana seeds to bolster local production.”

If this can happen in Uruguay under a left-wing government headed by a president who was once a member of an urban guerilla, why is it unthinkable in Cuba?

Meanwhile, in Bolivia, Evo Morales defends the massive use of coca, another plant that has been “demonized” by backward leaderships.

Practically all Latin American countries – save Cuba – choose their presidents through direct, popular vote. The real effectiveness of presidential democracies may be questioned from a socialist-libertarian perspective, but there is no question that this is a fact.

With respect to freedom of information and massive access to the Internet, in some countries in the region (Argentina, for example), laptops and tablets with Internet connections are made available to students, while Internet access per se is still being debated in Cuba.

As regards the bureaucracy and Cuba’s self-imposed blockade, even Cuba’s highest political authorities have acknowledged how noxious these processes are to the country’s current reform processes.

The future envisaged by Carcasses is the future envisaged by many social movements struggling for changes that will empower the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean through solidarity. It is not the future Cuban censors envisage, though.

The fact is that such an image of the future represents a death sentence for the bureaucracy.

The bureaucracy will one day leave the stage, for it belongs to the past, to the dead past of the desiccated Egyptian mummies and the pyramids of the pharaohs, who were the first to establish a hierarchical system of social administration.

What Roberto Carcasses and Observatorio Critico call for belongs to the future, a future of solidarity, individual freedom and social self-initiative.

Observatorio Critico’s message of solidarity was divulged on the eve of Cuban Culture Day.


Declaration of the Observatorio Critico Network in Support of Musician Roberto Carcasses

Cuba’s Observatorio Critico Network firmly supports the artist Roberto Carcasses, chief promoter of the Interactivo music project, in connection with his recent remarks during the concert held in tribute to the Cuban Five in Havana’s Anti-Imperialist Tribune.

Carcasses’ gesture, using his performance to make demands that are indispensable in today’s Cuba – freedom of information and expression, the need for a democratization of Cuba’s political system, the overcoming of hatred between nations and the elimination of internal and external blockades –  was an example of civic and social commitment.

As we know, for Cuba’s bureaucracy, there is no right place or time to express such inconvenient ideas, save those decided (and controlled) by the powers that be.

This is the reason that the “cadres” responsible for administering Cuban culture did not hesitate to chastise the heretic. Fortunately, strong pressures from other musicians and admirers have reverted the initial repressive sanction and have turned it into a kind of paternal “slap on the hand” for a simple “error” of judgment.

For a true artist, however, no context is more ideal to express such ideas than that in which they produce their art. This is why we disapprove of the attempt to transform the musician’s courageous gesture into a “blunder” or a “mistake.” On the contrary, we want and need such postures to become more common at Cuba’s more massive cultural events, such as concerts, where the multi-faceted views of different individuals can begin to be heard.  

In addition, the legitimate and urgent aspirations of the Cuban people, expressed by the artist, dignify, broaden and strengthen the just movement calling for the release of the Cuban Five.

Lastly, we want to make it very clear that our declaration is not opportunistic in the least: the bureaucrats are the ones who have given rise to this regrettable situation. We hope that the authorities responsible will be duly and publicly sanctioned.

We congratulate and thank Roberto Carcasses for having sown this seed. We hope it will sprout and bear fruit.

2 thoughts on “Marihuana, Roberto Carcasses, the Observatorio Critico Network and the Future of Latin America and the Caribbean

  • The single most overwhelming obstacle to change in Cuba is the continued presence of the Castros. Once they have died or truly left the spotlight, steps toward a more democratic society will emerge rapidly.

  • I agree with most of Roberto’s thoughts, nevertheless i think we should never authorize marihuana or any other drug, Cuba is a better place precisely because the low impact that drugs have in our society. That’s out of debate.

Comments are closed.