By Irina Echarry
HAVANA TIMES – I feel my body has grown heavier. It’s hard for me to walk, sleep, think about anything else except Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara’s total hunger strike, including water. I think about the moral poverty of the government who cornered him and pushed him to his limit. Now they’re keeping him isolated, without internet access, with little telephone communication. In addition, they harass him, keep him from leaving his house, and repress and arrest those who try to reach San Isidro in Old Havana.
This government that only speaks of achievements and never of mistakes. They utilize the public media to smear people, with shady tactics like manipulating and dividing. They employ sarcasm, exposing names, phone numbers, and private audio and text messages.
Official government spokesman Humberto Lopez continues digging that black hole he’s made for himself. History will never be able to extricate him. In the stellar evening TV broadcast Thursday night, Lopez tried once more to demean Luis Manuel. He also disparaged other people who’ve decided not to continue acting as if nothing were happening in the country.
He played with the viewers with his habitual cut-and-paste clandestine audio reports. This time, though, he went further. Humberto made fun of the hunger strike. He insinuated something like this: Luis Otero can die waiting for a counter-order from the Empire that pays him, as has occurred with others. It seems to me utterly absurd to think that someone would mount a hunger strike, and endure the final consequences, for money. But this is the message the government is transmitting through their media, with no chance for anyone to respond.
Luis Manuel’s body is weakening quickly. His throat is swollen, he’s having difficulty urinating and can barely stand up. While this is going on, our humanity is becoming ever more fragile. His life is in imminent danger, but even so, the government won’t hear his demands.
It won’t return the artwork they stole the day the burst violently into his house. Not to mention compensate him for the mistreatment these works received. It won’t lift the police cordon they’ve kept the artist trapped within for months now, treating him worse than an assassin. The government won’t recognize its mistake, and for that reason it won’t excuse itself for breaking into his home nor the theft.
The authorities are behaving like befuddled parents, blinded by power. They’re set on not admitting they were wrong; they couldn’t possibly “give in to” their rebellious son.
However, we’re not their children. A government is there for its citizens. Luis Manuel is demanding that they respect him as the citizen he is, the human being he is.
The pandemic has deepened the crisis in which we Cubans are living. The economic restructuring, with its rise in prices, has been a dagger to the heart of families. Scarcity lashes most homes. Meanwhile the government dedicates resources, a lot of resources, to laying siege and criminalizing those with empathy.
Enough of repressing those who think differently. Dissenting can’t be a crime; a poster isn’t a bomb. The people who want to go to San Isidro aren’t terrorists. They’re not going to pour poison into the water tanks of a daycare. They don’t carry weapons. Enough of turning people’s homes into prisons, leaving the streets only for the privileged, or for zombies. Enough of using our minds as dumping grounds for cheap manipulation.
How are we going to explain to our children what’s happening to a country that prides itself on its solidarity, on saving lives?
Are they going to let a young man of 33 die? A man full of energy, of the desire to create? Enough playing house! We’re not your children – get out of the role of authoritarian parents. Meet Luis Manuel’s legitimate demands. Seriously – is life of so little importance to them?