HAVANA TIMES — We Cubans without access to the Internet traffic information on USB flash drives. A video showing a protest staged by the Union Patriotica de Cuba (Cuban Patriotic Union, or UNPACU) – an organization of the opposition that is strong in the country’s east – reached me through one of these.
From the balcony of a humble house nestled in a poor neighborhood, a dozen dissidents yell forbidden phrases and ideas: “Down with Fidel, Raul and communism!”, “murderers!”, “thugs!”, “donations are not for sale!”, “one currency!”, “fair salaries!”, “milk for our children!”, “roofs for the people!”, “freedom for political prisoners!”, “Cuba for Cubans, not tourists!”, “respect for the opposition!”, “no more evictions!”, “no more unemployment!”, “down with the political police!”, and so on and so forth.
The neighbors begin to crowd beneath the balcony: people of all ages and colors, humble folk who look at the spectacle with curiosity and in silence. The occasional old man hurls an insult at the protesters and a grandmother threatens to throw stones at them.
The police don’t take long to arrive: a jeep fitted with loudspeakers carrying furious, violent people that inspire fear. They provoke the UNPACU protesters so they will come down and have a go at it, but the protesters respond saying theirs is a peaceful demonstration.
An official from the Provincial Communist Party Headquarters has the difficult task of responding to the choir of the opposition. She uses a megaphone and shrieks but nothing meaningful comes out of her mouth: nothing with any thought behind it, only pre-fabricated phrases, empty slogans, revolutionary ditties. Below are some of these:
“There’s no opposition here, you’re just miserable scum, mercenaries working for a foreign power, imperialist puppets. You’re not a part of this dignified and hard-working people, there’ll never be room here for you. You’re no one, you’re nothing, scoundrels! Your political prisoners are paid criminals. The enemy is here today. Out with them, out with them! Illiterates, we won’t allow you to attack and offend us. (Addressing the members of the CDR) Don’t let three mercenaries on the empire’s payroll stain the honor and dignity of this community, don’t let them hold these indecent demonstrations…”
From time to time, she hands over the microphone to another woman (supposedly from the people) who says pretty much the same things, only in a more aggressive, personal and offensive tone.
Things end up getting quite heated: someone at street-level dares say something in support of the demonstration, and a furious horde of people lunges at them.
I don’t know anything about UNPACU, but this video has left me with a good impression about them. One has to be courageous to raise one’s voice like that, knowing that a crowd of fundamentalists can beat you to a pulp, the police lock you up indefinitely and State Security make your life hell.
This time around, at least, it was the demonstrators who maintained a civic, restrained and intelligent attitude, before the fascist behavior and intolerance of those who defend the system.
I know nothing about UNPACU’s politics or the contents of its agenda. At this demonstration, at least, they make the demands that anyone is duty-bound to address to a totalitarian dictatorship.
Each of the phrases pronounced by this handful of nut-cases was like a beam of light piercing through the fear, undermining the myth of monolithic unity, profaning the sacred totem. People listened to them passively, as though they witnessed some kind of artistic performance, but something in their world was surely fractured forever.
The video ends there and I don’t know how the party ended.