Cuban Police Forbid Public Debate on Labor Code

Isbel Diaz Torres

The security police felt threatened by 13 people discussing the Labor Code bill in a park.

HAVANA TIMES — This Saturday I was summoned to the Police Station at 23rd and C Street in Vedado, where an agent of the Ministry of Interior (MININT) threatened to retaliate against me and my fellow Critical Observatory Network members, if we hold public debates on the Cuban Labor Code bill.

Omar (the name of the MININT official) was explicit in saying they will not hesitate to use force to prevent a repeat of something like what happened on Sunday September 29, when 13 people discussed the document in Havana’s El Curita park, inviting passerby to listen and participate.

Although the Communist Party and the Cuban Workers Federation have called for discussion on the bill, Omar explained that this can only take place in the workplace, under the aegis of management and their faithful union sections. And this police agent appears to have the power structures behind him to enforce his mandates.

According to Omar, our meeting in the park is a crime that they will not allow. He says we violated the Law on Associations. However a member of the Critical Observatory just revised the law and found nowhere that it is a punishable crime in Cuba to sit in a park and talk.

Nonetheless, Omar issued the threat to send a patrol car to my workplace and take me away handcuffed in front of my coworkers, if we disobey his order.

An agent who accompanied him (with beautiful blue eyes, by the way) also warned me that they will not allow “any counterrevolutionary activity”, to which I replied that I was more revolutionary and leftwing than they are.

Although Omar allowed me the freedom to consider myself a “revolutionary”, it is clear that we were talking about two different concepts of revolution. One, theirs, related to an uncritical defense of the status quo, and mine, with the desire to promote and socialize popular autonomy.

At my departure, Omar detained my partner Jimmy Roque, who had not been officially summoned to the station, and he uttered the same threats of violent repression.

The truth is that the ultimatum has been given. It could be a bluff, that they are accustomed to, but it might not be. If carried out it would add to the already shameful and illegal treatment that the Cuban political police administer to dissidents on the right. Now they would also attack critical socialists.

I imagine them happy, at peace, when in silence they hold all the power for themselves, and manage to impose an unprecedented “revolutionary” capitalism to Cuba, well guarded by their shotguns.

Until this happens I will be here, with my utopias, with my colleagues, working in neighborhoods, clearing the malecon sea wall, planting trees, denouncing the violations of the powerful, supporting their victims, making poetry, and in my way, building another socialism.

I thank colleagues who from Europe, Latin America and the USA who called to keep abreast of what was happening, and also those who joined me here on a hectic Saturday morning.

Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

3 thoughts on “Cuban Police Forbid Public Debate on Labor Code

  • When I tell people about my trip to Cuba last May, I tell them about our discussion with Isbel and Jimmy over dinner. I take it as a sign of hope that a person in Cuba can make criticisms and still be on the street. But clearly there are restrictions on political discussion and activity. Even If I agreed that such restrictions are imposed on Cuba by the external threat, I could not agree that this is a step forward. It is a step back. An absence of political debate brings its own dangers.
    Socialist renewal in Cuba needs the input of Isbel and Jimmy. I wish them well.

  • As the left-wingers in Cuba continue to experience the same acts of repression as has long been the experience of the ‘dissident’ community, the true colors of the Castro regime will be further revealed. As the reality that the Castros care nothing about “Perfecting Socialism” and everything about maintaining totalitarian control, the support of the international left will wan and the true fascist nature of the regime will become apparent. Or the Castros will die, whichever comes first.

  • I hope this hasn’t come as a terrible surprise to you, Isbel, that a police state which has always banned freedom of association and free speech actually bans freedom of association and free speech!

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