Jimmy Roque Martinez
HAVANA TIMES – I first saw footage of an official act of reprisal (mitín de repudio) in Cuba in the Cuban film Memories of development. The footage showed a group of people beating up a person. The images were from the eighties, during the Mariel exodus.
Seeing those images was painful. I felt a mixture of pain, shame, anger and even loneliness. I find it curious that I’ve never met anyone who has admitted (with shame or pride) having participated in such actions. I don’t believe all who did have left the country.
I recently got my hands on acts of reprisal carried out very recently – the documentary Gusano (“Scum”), by the Estado de SATS group. The film documents some violent acts against the opposition that are evidently organized by the Cuban government.
In Cuba, people don’t even organize themselves independently to march in front of the US Interests Section and demand the lifting of the blockade, something which, in theory, should not be a source of conflict between the Cuban government and such demonstrators – but any kind of autonomy is inadmissible here on the island.
It is inconceivable that a government should pit its own citizens against one another. Cuban military officers send civilians to verbally and physically attack other (peaceful) civilians, many a time without even telling them why or telling them anything about the people they are supposed to attack.
Many of these aggressors are opportunists who are looking after their privileged positions or illegal businesses, and participating in these reprisals is a kind of endorsement that guarantees personal protection.
There are also cases in which people feel some antipathy towards the person targeted for a reprisal and are given an opportunity, by the government, to attack their personal enemy.
The people’s resources are used to attack the people, to pit neighbor against neighbor.
There are two aspects of these actions that I consider particularly dangerous. One is the participation of military officers dressed as civilians, who drive vehicles with regular license plates. This ought to be illegal, as military officers trained in personal defense and paid to attack others conceal their true identity, playing the part of ordinary people.
The other point is the subordination of the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of the Interior, caught sight of in the fact students who are not of age are involved in violent acts, probably without the consent of their parents.
They are made to skip classes, taught that violence is a means of defending one’s criteria, and exposed to the risk of getting hurt when the violence is unleashed.
The Ministry of Education should have to respond publicly and before the law for this. Is part of its aim as a social institution to teach violence, to teach the young that imposing one’s viewpoints, not debating, is a valid form of communication? Is public education subordinate to a military institution in Cuba?