By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – On July 11th, our country lived an unforgettable day in its people’s civic awakening. A popular protest spontaneously broke out in San Antonio de los Baños, in Mayabeque, and it triggered a domino effect. As the hours passed, the civic uprising grew and spread to many towns and cities across the island. Peoples’ cries were: “Homeland and Freedom!” “Freedom!” and “We want change!”
There’s no point in the Communist Party (PCC) government trying to take merit away from the Cuban people, and attributing the idea of mobilizing and the alleged organization to the same old ghost: “US imperialism”.
There’s no point in belittling events in the official press about the Cuban people’s attacks on the unpopular MLC (USD) stores; and there’s no point in repression, the militarization of the country and the “witch hunt” that has been going on ever since: the message has been given.
It is sad to see how this social uprising was stifled; it’s sad to see our brothers and sisters in the police force, MININT troops, FAR recruits or government agency employees, used as tools of repression, to beat, to kick and even shoot against its own people. Cubans hurting other Cubans at the government’s order. This in response to the irresponsible and cruel appeal from Cuban president and head of the Communist Party, Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel. A blemish that will endure throughout history.
When I heard his message, I knew there would be deaths. Anybody could see it coming. There were deaths. I knew that there would be abuse and violence, and there was; I knew they would stain their hands with blood, and they did. Government propaganda, or the radical Cuban socialist system, has always been founded upon a deceptive sense of civil peace. This time, this deception was exposed, at its core.
It is founded upon the fact that the Cuban people don’t take to the streets en masse because they support the Revolution and the leaders. We Cubans know how fear and social control work, and the opposition already knew how repression works (now everybody knows). Even though everybody knows that it is very difficult to hold a protest in times of totalitarianism, many Cubans on the island found a moral escape to be in bed with the regime.
The country has been militarized for over a week. Uniformed officers are mobilized in every city, in every town and in every neighborhood, in search of potential protestors. Riot police are ready to go out in buses and repress those who finally slip past their vigilance. There have been many attempts, but they have been stifled immediately and stopped. The witch hunt turns us all into criminals.
Most people get a fine or are sentenced to home arrest or bail, and many of them must sign a pledge that they won’t “alter public order” again, that’s to say, protest against the government. But other people are expecting harsher sentences. The number of people who have been arrested (and verified with a name and surname) figures in the hundreds, but it’s a complex task because the authorities don’t provide these statistics and I’m guessing this number could be over a thousand citizens.
Desperate mothers trying to locate their children; reports of disappeared people, who were taken by the police; many heartbreaking testimonies as well as Pinochet-style images of brutal police repression. At the end of the day, there is no unbiased Justice system and laws don’t protect people’s rights.
Recent events over the past few days, reveal the reason for this social rebellion. However, the real reason is that the Cuban people are fed up with an unfair economic system that doesn’t work and will never work, as well as an authoritarian political system that is completely undemocratic.
Nothing will be the same in Cuba again after July 11th. The protest was calmed down with violence and fear, but people’s desires and their need to protest and for the country to change, continue to burn. Instead of lessening, it has grown.
Seeing people rejoice on the streets and on social media was an unforgettable experience, because of their civil awakening. While there were some places without any protests, there were many attempts to mobilize and a lot of joy and support for protestors. People were overcome with widespread euphoria, both in and outside Cuba. The government has no way of destroying this because it is in the Cuban people’s spirits.
There is no doubt that change is on the horizon, coming in one way or another. Let’s hope it comes peacefully. Let’s hope that the international community supports our people more and understands now (after seeing thousands of videos and photos) why we weren’t in the streets before and why we can’t continue to be on the streets, despite wanting to. Let’s hope they don’t demand we stand unarmed in the face of armed soldiers who are willing to shoot.
It’s all clear now, and the best path forward is to pressure for a peaceful way out, agreed between the regime and the population, with trustworthy international monitoring. Let the sovereign Cuban people decide and let violence not be the only path they leave us. It would be a great political blindsight on the PCC’s behalf if they don’t realize that, at this point in time, their system is unsustainable and there is no other path forward that isn’t democratization.