A Test for Dictatorship

Erasmo Calzadilla

Havana Painter. Photo: Caridad

This post is concerning a TV program whose theme was the media war against Cuba. In it, Yoani Sanchez and other bloggers were presented as mercenaries on the payroll of the US empire.

If you want to know if a government is dictatorial, ask its representatives if there are or are not dissidents.  If you get a negative answer, the more absolute it is the more it’s a symptom that things are pretty ugly.

How is it possible then, at this stage of the game, that these types of functionaries continue repeating the same thing?  Have they no shame?  Don’t they realize that by doing this they’re putting nails in their own coffins?

The most normal thing in the world is to have dissidents.  It’s logical.  It’s what should happen so that things function.  It’s characteristic wherever one wants there to exist a healthy diversity of opinions and points of views.

Where there are no dissidents it’s because they’re murdered or gagged whenever they open their mouths, because even bees and ants should have dissidents.

What’s more, we should all be dissidents, each having a varying position on one or another measure that reigns in society.  And we all should be struggling for the recognition of our differing point of view.

For some time, government spokespeople and others who agree with their positions came out accusing Yoani of being a mercenary of the empire, paid through the many international awards she receives, even the highly recognized Ortega and Gaset prize.

I don’t know if the recognitions were fair or not, but to accuse someone in front of the TV cameras like that requires that they should at least present some proof.

Listen!  If you don’t want them to call you a dictator then don’t do those types of things.  It appears that either they’ve gone completely crazy or they believe that the people of Cuba are just plain stupid.

I know very little about what Yoani, Pardo and the rest of the bloggers do, but I think that any government in the world would be proud to have dissidents as peaceful and respectful as them – so different from what terrorists represent.

But there’s another aspect: When they mention Yoani on the one hand, and the bloggers who support the government on the other, they reduce the whole blog sphere to this dichotomy, but there’s actually a rich and diverse world thanks to bloggers.

I could cite, for example, leftwing bloggers like some of the ones who write for this web page.  The left bloggers remain essentially invisible because to the authorities it’s “not convenient” that the world know how much socialism itself has been betrayed.  What’s more, the social activism these bloggers invite could end up stripping the ruling elite of the privileges they enjoy.

14 thoughts on “A Test for Dictatorship

  • There’s a military-industrial mafia ruling the US for way more than 50 years and nobody has told Julio about it.

  • I thought Erasmo’s diary entry above was excellent. Erasmo’s diary entry is very much on par with the excellent insights Yoani expresses on her blog. As Erasmo notes, the Castro dictatorship should count itself lucky that Cuba has dissidents as peaceful and respectful as the independent bloggers.

  • Michael
    Freedom is not just about words and about telling what one thinks. But even if we restrict freedom to just that. They seem do not even enjoy that in Cuba.

    It is about being able to exit and return your own country. Is about doing things without following the dictated script from above. Following your own path and what your consciousness tells you to do and not following someone’s else ideas.
    I suppose you are not ordered or commanded by anyone on the White house to any of the friendly visits you do to Cuba? Do you?
    or any of the revolution sympathizers that have also the freedom to do so from all over the world.

    meanwhile Cubans have to ask for an embarrassing permit from their own government to exit or enter their own homeland. That is also used as a way to harass and coerce Cuban into the behavior they like for Cubans to have. To be obedient and to shut up.
    There you have Yoani who have requested multiple times for exit permit and have always been denied.
    This kind of behavior shows again the Cuban elite is a mafia in power.
    Why do you choose to ignore this things about the Cuban regime?
    Why do you choose to ignore the bad and the ugly of the Cuban regime?
    I know you know about this things and I know you probably also agree with me that they are bad things but I really like to know why you choose to ignore them?

  • Many of the diaries, features and other stories here at the HT are often critical of the regime, and make some of the same ciriticisms you make, Julio. Besides being more positive than Joani’s, however, their analyses are deeper and more thorough going (e.g. Pedro Campos, Ravesberg, etc.). In short, they have what Freud calls “oceanic,” rather than shallow, views. (This has something to do with having historical, or dialectical, consciousness.) Freedom and democracy are words which oft mean anything–and nothing. For example, H.L. Mencken used to say that “There is freedom of the press–if you OWN a press!” Fortunately, Mencken’s cynicism is becoming less relevant today, as commucation, thanks to the internet, becomes ever more democratized. Here, too, the Cuban government should quit rationing and restricting the internet because, one way or another, more and more Cubans, especially younger Cubans, will just find ways around these clumsy attempts at limitations anyway (e.g. the many memory sticks now in circulation. Alas, along with the good, comes the SABADO GIGANTE trash. too. Still, with the good you have allow for the bad, too! OTOH, perhaps such trash as Rebecca Black’s FRIDAY should be censored!) Besides, at this point the government has little choice but to join the world economy, and hence cannot restrict communications. Failing to allow maximum access to the internet will assure that Cuba will be left in the dust–or, to use the Marxian term–it will assure that Cuba will be swept into the proverbial “dustbin of history!” Fortunately, the younger generation is too bright for this to happen.

  • Michael you do have the right to listen to whomever you like but if you really like to be informed and impartial you should listen to all sides. It is the only way to really be able to understand Cuban reality better.

    I do have personal experience with Cuba (26 years there) and I already have picked my side but I still come and try to listen to what the other side has to say. It is important that we do so. Never to close the door to communication and to dialog. That is the worst thing that can ever happen.

  • Where George?
    Why is it so hard for you guys to admit just as hard as it is for the Cuban regime that people can disagree with them?
    Why can you guys not think that there could be solutions to the problems of Cuba that do not come from the elite in power and that could be better solutions to those problems?

    Is it because you guys seem to be blind?

    I do not know Yoani personally but only thru her writing and I can assure that what she writes about is the Cuba I know. The Cuba I myself experienced. Oppose to the rosy paradise described by Granma the voice piece of the elite.

    Yoani is really doing them a favor by pointing at the things that need fixing.
    Why instead of attacking her don’t they dedicate the resources to solving the problems she points about the Cuban regime?

    They have no interest it seems in solving problems. Is that not obvious?
    For example let us look at the latest article from Yoani


    This one is about one of the biggest and costliest errors of the elite. Building a nuclear power plant in Cuba.
    While we could all argue in favor or against such thing for different reasons. The final fact is right there staring in our face. It was never done.
    Who is to blame?
    Only the Cuban elite is to blame for this.
    This building reminds me of the windmill of animal farm!

  • Wikileaks proves that Ms Sanchez is a mercenary – How are you going to clean up the United States?

  • Michael
    Yoani, has mentioned in the past that it was not her place to look or search for solutions to the problems.
    I agree.
    It is really awesome that at least someone have the valor to point them out. I hope you have follow the reaction of the Cuban regime towards her and any other who is critical of them.
    They keep trying the old ways and those ways as you well mentioned do not work anymore. Maybe they are a little too old to understand this.
    I genuinely believe they started out with great dreams for Cuba but after 50 years we all can see that their approach was not correct and the dreams never materialized. It is time for them to step aside. To open the country to freedom. To let the cuban people make the hard decisions that need to be made and that they seem to be to timid to do.
    Is time for them to let go of power.

    They have created their own enemies. They have only themselves to blame. For their exclusionary practices and for the many other things we have witness them do.

  • Julio, I don’t dispute Joani’s right to be negative, only that when the predominant theme is negative, rather than positive, offering neither a coherent nor positive alternative, I don’t wish to waste my time. And yes, in one of her posts, she did make oblique, though not direct, threats of violence against those in power. I agree, though, that government should not be harassing her (or others). She should have the right to express her opinions. In the long run, such supression is counter-productive. The problem, I suspect, is that those of the “Generation of ’59” who led the Revolution, besides being under seige from the Other Evil Empire (as Gore Videl called us!), had a rather literal interpretation Socrates’s advice (in The Republic) about poets and playwrights (and other intellectuals). Socrates considered the creative artists far too important to be left to their own devices; hence must be “supervised” by the state. Whether then, or now, however, such “supervision” is like trying to herd cats! It can’t be done!
    I have read the article on Petco, and others articles, on Cubans who have had the courage to make their criticisms, and lead their lives, according to their consciences and how they see fit. Cuba is changing. It cannot continue as it has. Remember, though, that those of the Generation of ’59 who made the Revolution began with a dream of bringing both economic and political justice to their island. Much of their dream has turned to ashes. Some of this was their fault, but much was beyond their control. Nevertheless, continuing that dream of social, economic and political justice depends on including everyone, as well as a merciless analysis of past mistakes and how to overcome them.

  • I am placing here a link from kaosenlared
    a leftist site that published this article from non other that one of Che Guevara’s child
    it is in spanish but it can be translated to english using the google translator.

    I wonder if Circle would like to publish this article here in Havana times?


    The article is very clear about the current state for the Cuban people. They are being force towards capitalism this time but without the benefit of having union representation since as you all know the current cuban union does not really represent the working people of Cuba.

    Many other interesting things are mentioned in the article specially important is when they talk about the silence and complicity of the international left against the bad things the regime has done.

  • Firstly, the fact that you wrote this at all indicates a change in Cuba. The next thought is that in many countries
    around the world, China especially, there are people arrested frequently because of their views. In fact, just
    recently, China sentenced a man to 15 years in prison for advocating democracy. Personally, I don’t know
    what democracy really is but again, China controls a massive part of the USA’s debt and economy so
    I’m sure the powers in place are ignoring this. It will take little steps like yours, Michael and the many Sanchez’s who move forward with fresh ideas. One final comment, I don’t have much respect for the expatiates since
    they have the comfort of food, shelter and security and have deprived their own people the chance to
    grow and prosper because of their obscene political clout in the USA. Kind of reminds me of the politicians
    who espouse war and have no relatives serving in the military.

  • Michael she is in her right to be as negative as she wants to be when she rights about the Cuban regime. We cubans were promise many things and they never got delivered. I have follow Yoani’s blog since the beginning and I have yet to see a statement where you mentioned she hinted at violence.

    The revolution long ago became and obstacle to change. The necessary change towards progress. It can not be even claim that the revolution is the true representation of the working class. I wonder if you read the recent article by Alfredo about my friend Peteco.
    There you can see that even people that within the revolution try to ask for something different are marginalized and isolated like if they had a contagious decease by the repressive apparatus de the revolution.

    Michael do you feel yourself with any fears when you write here your views?

    I am sorry but I have seen even communist in this great country. And they had no fear. They were distributing their literature at the Washington Mall and have no issue doing so.

    I have known many with very leftist inclinations. And again they have no fear and they are free to speak up and do what they want. The same thing is not true of the Cuban regime.
    They do punished disent as we have seen in the past and present.
    To them anyone that is not with them is their enemy. If Cubans in Cuba could express themselves freely without any retribution this will not do. Like me I am sure they are many possibly a great majority that will be for allowing freedom. Only the elite in power is for this, because it is convenient for them in order to keep themselves in power. It is a mafia.

  • Poor Cuba! Being a Third World country, its ruling party has not yet learned the more sophisticated methods of dealing with its dissidents. Here in the First World, and especially here in the United States, our establishment uses far more subtle methods, to wit: because our dissidents do not own the means of mass communications, their messages are marginalized, and are only received by those shrewed enough to search out alternative sources of information. Moreover, here the dissidents are used by these same authorities, when it is convenient for them, to exemplify the (psuedo-) freedom of our system. If the dissidents pose any real threat, most often they are coopted or, if they still prove stubborn, isolated, marginalized or, in a few examples, as in Cuba, dealt with more harshly. In case anyone is interested, these issues were explored, years ago, in Herbert Marcuse’s in ONE DIMENSIONAL MAN. I agree with you, Erasmo, let the dissidents do their thing. As Chairman Mao once said: “Let a thousand flowers bloom! Let a hundred schools of thought contend!” (OTOH, after he said this, the [not so] Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution took place, and those who had taken up Chairman Mao on his offer did not fare so well!)
    Hence, it is really counter-productive for the Revolution to make a martyr of Joani. Short of out-and-out insignment to counter-revolutionary violence (which she has hinted at, in several of her posts) let her express her opinions. Having read her blog (in years past), she strikes me as someone lacking a larger vision, who complains about the Revolution’s shortcomings, but nothing more. As I said to you when we met last October in Habana, with Joani, “her glass is always half empty.” I must say that I have to fight this tendency towards negaativity within myself, too. It is too easy to be cynical. As the saying goes, “better to light a single candle” in the encroaching darkness.

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