Victims or Perpetrators?

Erasmo Calzadilla

Fishing on the Havana Malecon Seawall.  Photo: Caridad
Along the Havana Malecon Seawall in Havana. Photo: Caridad

As usual, I got home late, after my family had already gone to bed.  But a couple of Saturdays ago I was taken by surprise when I opened the door.  In the dark, sitting on the sofa with her head in her hands was my grandmother, who had waited up for me.

My grandmother, as I suppose happens to almost all grandmothers, can’t sleep when she senses something bad has happened to a grandchild, in this case me.  On this occasion she had gotten worried after seeing a report on the evening news about an incident that had occurred in Havana, one which she had somehow associated with me.

With her edginess calmed by seeing me enter our home safe and sound, my father’s mother told me about what she had heard: “Some young people had gathered, singing and dancing, in a public festivity in the Vedado neighborhood, when suddenly they realized that among them was a group yelling things that nothing had to do with the celebration – these outsiders were chanting counterrevolutionary slogans!”

“The broadcast showed the young people starting to shove and beat the people who had not been invited and were unwelcome,” described my grandmother, though I couldn’t find her story believable.

I stayed up to see if the late-night news would rerun the story, but my vigil was in vain; the anchorman only reported about crops harvested by volunteer work brigades and other achievements like that.

It was the following day I was able to piece together a less fantastic story from bits of information I heard here and there.  In his blog, Reynaldo Escobar (the husband of blogger Yoani Sanchez) had challenged to a verbal duel the security agent who had roughed up his wife; that incident had occurred when she was picked up on her way to a demonstration a couple weeks earlier.

But instead of that officer of the law, what showed up was a very worked-up group of people who pushed and shoved him around while shouting the old slogans of the 1980s, ones which used to be vigorously employed in rallies lambasting people considered counterrevolutionaries.

Hours later I was able to view the video that appeared in the foreign media, but nothing about it indicated that this was an “energetic response delivered by the people, furious and spontaneously assembled,” as the Cuban media wished to make it seem.

My suspicions were later confirmed when someone at INSTEC (a university within the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, where I used to work) told me that a dean of that institution -in a public address- had recognized and congratulated several students “for their valiant participation in the call to combat a faction of counterrevolutionaries right out in the street.”

I discussed all of this recently with some friends.  We had to ask ourselves, are those “heroes” of INSTEC in fact victims or perpetrators? I have to believe they’re both at the same time.

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

10 thoughts on “Victims or Perpetrators?

  • December 19, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Mark, what would be gained is a reasonable preparatory period, to ensure that imperialism is not given a free hand to manipulate the pending elections. Cuba is under constant attack from the evil empire, and this “at war” situation conditions everything.

    Regardless how we might feel as individuals, we cannot simply expect the Cuban state and Party to snap fingers and transform instantly.

    The most important thing in preparation for the hypothetical elections hvr would be “economic” conversion to a new form of socialism. This would be a new hypothesis for socialist experimentation. Instead of full state ownership of all, the new form would reintroduce private property rights and the free socialist trading market.

    It would build on the cooperative mechanisms proven workable at Mondragon, Spain over the past half-century. It would go to worker-state co-ownership thru cooperative corporations, plus many, many small, independent businesses. Cheers!

  • December 18, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Grady, thanks for your answer to my earlier question, though I’m not sure what would be gained by waiting two years to hold multiparty elections. If Cubans were immediately granted rights to free speech, association and media, such a delay might contribute to political instability rather than certainty.

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