By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – As most of you know, thousands of Cubans took to the streets in many towns and cities to protest and demand political change on July 11th, amidst the worst health crisis in history, regular blackouts and extreme shortages of basic essentials.
Repression was immediately stepped up after this day. By nightfall that day, there had already been one fatality, dozens of injured people, and hundreds of detainees, many of whom were young people who are now facing up to 20-year prison sentences requested by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The majority are being tried just for peacefully protesting or recording the protests on their cellphones.
Ever since then, Cuba’s main streets continue to be patrolled by special troops, called the “black berets”. As if that wasn’t enough, workers are being recruited to go in groups and keep guard at certain strategic points, so as to dissuade or fight any anti-government protest.
In keeping with the above, an official from the company I work at came and told me a few weeks ago that it was “my turn” to keep guard the following day. I gave her my poker face and said “OK”, although a volcano of rebellion was on the brink of erupting within me.
But I didn’t show this, and I felt like a coward in those few seconds, despite reason telling me that it was better to keep quiet. Then, her words came as salvation to my inner struggle between pride and good sense. “I know you aren’t going to go, but I’ve done my job of telling you.” Her calibration left me feeling at ease and I forgot about it.
I see people there every day, morning and evening, sitting on the benches in the park near my workplace, talking amidst music/propaganda where songs by Buena Fe, Raul Torres etc. are always played.
Well, a few hours ago, the same official told me that it was my turn to do this damn guard duty. This time though, she added “before somebody else says anything, let me say it to you so you don’t tell me I didn’t give you a heads up.”
I could sense the subtle threatening tone in her words, and I had to speak up this time. “You know me, and you know full well that I don’t get mixed up in gossip, but just like I’m telling you now, I’d say it to Fidel Castro himself if he were to come back to life, I have no intention of spending the evening in the park, much less beat anyone up if they decide to protest.”
I’ve been waiting for what might happen to me, ever since. Although, I’m calm anyway. Like the old Biblical proverb goes: “The wicked flee when no one pursues them, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
They can call me in, question me, or worse. Maybe they won’t, maybe it just ends there. Luckily, it isn’t the ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘80s when people like me would have been put behind bars.
All for defending a basic space of autonomy that allows me to live with a clear conscience.
This is why I was kicked out of the State law firm I worked at 13 years ago, with the lie that I had committed serious ethical misconduct, and my contract was terminated at the university where I used to teach. This is also why I had to give up my dreams of practicing Law in a country without freedom.
Such a precarious country that even getting a simple painkiller becomes an odyssey. A country where your rights are violated, where you must pay the price for breathing.