By Irina Echarry
HAVANA TIMES – Cuban TV is dedicating primetime spaces to discredit San Isidro Movement (MSI) members. But not only them. They also attack the young people who went to the Ministry of Culture on November 27th to push for a dialogue between state institutions and artists.
A statement published on the morning of Friday December 4th, on the Ministry of Culture’s official website set the tone. They blamed the artists for not being open to a dialogue. This because they presented some requests before sitting down in a meeting.
The Ministry and official press ignored the fact that the vice-minister of Culture went back on everything that was agreed during the night of November 27th, in less than 24 hours!
The strategy includes defaming artists, planting the seed of doubt about their behavior and the legitimacy of their demands. He also went back on other agreements: looking into imprisoned rapper Denis Solis’ case, going over the AHS’ statement that assumes that MSI members are mercenaries, and putting an end to police harassment of artists.
Solis, who was sentenced to eight months in prison in a summary trial without due process, continues in jail. The MSI continues under the watchful State Security eye and suffers harassment from both police forces and the media. Plus, they added the 30 young artists, who attended the meeting at the Ministry of Culture on November 27th, representing the hundreds that stood outside, to the list of “Imperialism’s acolytes”.
Official discourse doesn’t waver
“The enemy” is planning a “soft coup”, using “political manipulation and opportunism to incite a fourth-generation war.” Moreover, the words “terrorism” and “mercenary” are being used to death.
A few days ago, the government told young “revolutionaries” to hold a “spontaneous” protest to defend the principles of socialism and the Revolution. The Cuban president showed up at the gathering wearing a shirt with the Cuban flag on it.
Such use of the flag could be penalized under the new Symbols Law that was recently passed. That’s one of the “crimes” that the State wants to try artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara for. Was it a provocation? Did they want to make it clear who can and can’t use the national flag?
As part of national TV’s media blitz, different special programs feature alleged criminals confessing that they received money to provoke incidents. These include breaking display windows at dollar stores, setting places on fire, or putting up posters with subversive messages. In addition to these actors lack of credibility, you sense a marked intention to link the MSI to terrorist attacks.
They have also dusted off a tape of Fidel Castro from the early ‘90s. “We won’t give the counter-revolution any safeguards,” he says bothered, hitting the table with his fist. He talks about applying the law, of classifying crimes against the Homeland properly. He proclaims that these counter-revolutionaries, “Don’t have the right to make mistakes and we will do everything we can to make sure they don’t make any mistakes.”
This is very serious. It’s no longer enough to discredit artists’ work, or accuse them of being mercenaries, dividing artists between those who identify with the MSI movement and those who don’t. They want to go even further now. Is it because they want to scare the Cuban people so that they don’t rebel? Or is it because they are fabricating a greater case for dissident artists? They go hand-in-hand.
While the Ministry of Culture met on Saturday December 5th with over 50 artists “who haven’t compromised their work with the enemy”, other artists continue under 24/7 surveillance, subject to hate rallies and being arrested. Some have been interrogated to link them with terrorist organizations they have no clue about.
At workplaces, employees are being summoned to do night watch and keep an eye out, to stop “provokers”. Others are stationed to sit out for hours in areas around the San Isidro neighborhood, “in case anything happens.” Riot squads have been seen on some streets.
UNEAC, the pro-government artists and writers organization, has taken Marti’s phrase out of context. Men are divided into two groups: those who love and create; and those who hate and destroy. In late November, President Diaz-Canel wrote a tweet in which he said that “whoever designed the farce of San Isidro picked the wrong country, they picked the wrong history and the wrong armed forces to mess with.”
Official media have also invoked Article 4 of the Cuban Constitution. This stipulates the most severe sanctions for those who betray the Homeland. It further proclaims, “citizens have the right to fight, using all means, including armed struggle, when no other recourse is possible, against anyone attempting to overthrow the political, social, and economic order established by this Constitution.”
On the official Cubadebate website, an article recalls independence hero Antonio Maceo. “Like the bronze Titan would say: machete, machete they’re only a few,” clearly encouraging violence. The article was amended a few hours later after an avalanche of negative comments came pouring in.
Nowadays, you often hear comments on the street: “word has it that shots were fired in front of Capitolio,” “they broke the windows of a dollar store in Mantilla.” Word travels from mouth to mouth, nobody knows who starts it, but they can’t confirm it either. It’s a convulsive state that keeps us distracted, that keeps our minds busy. It stops us from thinking about the very little that is on sale at the markets.
The show must stop
No more dividing us and creating sectarianisms. The problem from the very beginning has been a lack of respect, civil spirit and humanity.
The state must ensure due process for every citizen, regardless of what they think. It’s wrong to stop a group of people from reading poems out on the street or in their homes, regardless of their opinions. It’s inhumane to cut off food supplies to people who are locked into a house under siege. It’s very strange a criminal can provoke and attack those staying in a house being watched by the police, day and night.
Not everybody swallows this show. There is a video of a protest on social media, in which a lone young man with a poster is in the middle of San Rafael pedestrian boulevard in Central Havana, without any violence. Nobody is shouting worm or mercenary at him, nor that “the street is for revolutionaries”. People there filmed him and expressed their admiration, they even warned the police “not to beat him”. People understand that you shouldn’t punish somebody for thinking differently and expressing this peacefully.
If there are terrorists committing deplorable acts, let them be taken to trial with due process. However, the show that demonizes artists needs to stop.