HAVANA TIMES — Today (Sunday 30/7), should be an important day for Cuba. Venezuela, the country which our fleeting oil peace depends on, is going through a process which could trigger something negative at any moment.
While Cuban and Venezuelan government media show people convinced of the fact that the Constitutional Assembly will bring peace, many other online media talk about US sanctions, about young people protesting in the streets, about the government’s repression, intimidation and blackmail to get people to vote, and even about a possible US attack.
However, reggaeton, lines, the lack of information and the daily manipulation of national media makes the vast majority of Cubans behave as if nothing important is happening.
I walk down Alamar’s streets looking for vegetables and I’m able to confirm the confidence that enshrouds those who have relatives on a medical mission in Venezuela. They are anxious, of course, but they are calmed knowing that they are protected.
At the La Maravilla bakery, in zone 8, a mother who has both of her children on a mission in Venezuela clarifies: “they are put up in barracks and can’t go out for anything; they know that they need to buy provisions for a several days.” And, according to the man wearing a red shirt in front of her in the line: “if they have to defend themselves they will, forget about it. Up until now, they have never had to be given weapons, but if things get worse…”. The mother interrupts him: no, that’s nonsense; they went as doctors, not as soldiers. “Ah my lady, we all have a soldier inside, if they need it, it’ll come out,” the man responded.
Early in the morning, in Alamar’s Hanoi Park, a place where people go to connect to Wi-Fi, personal conversations invade the air. Coincidentally, there are only women around me who are arguing or telling their children off via the IMO app. But one lady stands out, as she moves from being the affectionate grandmother to police chief with such ease.
“Yes, they are showing everything here, on Telesur* we know what’s going on. Of course, they’re showing everything. Girl, I have seen roads cut off, the fires, what the opposition are doing…. everything. I also saw it, did you think I hadn’t? The police are there to repress, get it. Look here, are they going to let those brats take over the streets or rob stores or set them on fire? Of course they have to stop them and lock them up. What rights? Girl, what are you talking about? Listen, you studied, don’t let your head get filled with that nonsense… Yes, I do look at the Internet, and I know that people from the Right have turned this thing on its head. You’re not there either. Well, we see the same things on the internet, and then what? You’re very strange, be careful… Look don’t be so silly and put my granddaughter on, I called to see her not to argue with you… you idiot..”. She hung up. She took a walk through the park and called again, then she immediately began to say sweet things to the little girl who appeared on the screen.
My neighbor Angela has a grandson in Venezuela, she is very concerned “because things there are getting really bad. When he was on a mission, things were different. I know that they look after them, but he deserted a few years ago and has been stumbling around, an illegal resident, surviving”. Angela is afraid that something really ugly is going to happen, that they find out he’s Cuban and retaliate. She raises her eyebrows and opens her eyes wide to say: “they burn people alive out there.”
I get to my building, there are people on the stairs talking, to get into my home I have to explain several times where I bought such a beautiful chard. Then I bring up the subject of Venezuela and its elections. My neighbors just stare at me, the youngest looks at her phone and admits: “I don’t really know what is going on there.” Another emphatically exclaims that “this is so strange, because if Maduro is the president, why is there such a commotion with the opposition? Lock them all up and it’s over. The president is the one who is in charge.”
I asked her: Do you have any idea about what can happen after today?
“Nothing is going to happen, girl, people are voting, it’s normal.”
But, people are unhappy, over 7 million people voted in the referendum held by the opposition, I tell her.
“And so what? Venezuela isn’t Cuba, there are a whole load of people there, 7 million people isn’t anything. Everything will carry on the same, the United States a lot of blablabla… they aren’t going to do anything either.”
Yes, there could be more sanctions, they could stop buying Venezuelan oil, or they could stop refining it there.
“No, no, no. Don’t worry, it doesn’t suit you,” she interrupts me.
Why doesn’t it worry you?, I ask her.
“They have explained it on the TV, the US won’t be able to get oil nearby anywhere else, do you understand? Forget about it, it won’t happen. And the opposition will get tired of holding strikes, protests and all of these things. You’ll see how they get tired.”
I continue going up the stairs, once inside our apartment I talk to a more well-educated relative, who has frequent access to the internet and is moved by the Venezuelan people’s participation in the elections. I remind him that many people have reported blackmail, coercion, threats for those who don’t go out and vote. “I don’t think so, are you sure that happens? The people have given their reply, they have gone out and voted. Why? I don’t know. But the images speak for themselves.”
Of course, these are images shown here are all from Telesur.
*A Venezuelan government TV channel with Cuban participation which is also watched in Cuba.