HAVANA TIMES – On Sunday, I was surprised just like everyone else to see videos of Cubans taking to the streets to demand their rights, for the first time in over 60 years.
Of course, we all understand what I’m talking about, because it isn’t a case of Cubans never having raised their voices against the Castros’ tyranny, but it’s the first time that there has been a mass protest… it was even beautiful.
When Fidel’s Castro death was announced in 2016, I was living in Caracas and my first reaction was a mixture of surprise and indifference. Surprise because, by this time, I had already begun to start thinking that this guy really was eternal, unassailable… or that this whole double business might actually be true and it was unlikely that they would decide to tell the truth about his death.
A lack of interest or my absence of joy didn’t have anything to do with me lamenting his death (at the end of the day, I don’t see death as a punishment or something we should feel sorry about), but rather because I already knew that nothing in Cuba was going to change.
Most of us Cubans have lived with this awful certainty that we won’t see anything change in our country, or that people will come out of this stupor or hypnotic spell, or this combination of fanaticism and apathy that has taken seize of those who call themselves “revolutionaries”.
Maybe this is why I was so surprised to see streets in Havana and in many other cities across the island, full of Cubans marching to cries of “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life).
I haven’t written about Cuba in a long time, because it isn’t my place seeing as I’ve been living abroad for almost ten years, and the Cubans living there know exactly what’s going on; but it’s unlikely we’ll hear their voices right now. Maybe communication between Cubans living on the island and in the real world (I mean abroad) has become extremely difficult…
The Cuban regime has exploded its own “meat mass” in its face. For those of you who don’t understand this culinary allegory, Cubans living in Cuba have been complaining about the sale of “meat” to make croquettes, for months now, but it was extremely explosive when people fried it. While people were burning themselves or getting hurt, the government justified itself putting it down to poor Cubans’ ineptitude, the ones that are forced to buy whatever they can to survive… that is to say, the majority.
This majority, or a group of this majority, took to the streets like boiling oil leaving State Security and everyone involved in counter-intelligence looking quite bad.
What exactly happened that they weren’t able to stop people, like they normally do with “dissidents”, from organizing and taking to the street to speak their minds? How were they unable to find out about this new maneuver by US imperialism? How did they let so many dollars into the country so they could buy off hundreds or thousands of Cubans, not only in Havana, but in almost the entire country?
Croquettes are fried in boiling oil, and it explodes without the regime having time to measure the temperature, just like they demanded people should do when cooking them, to measure the temperature. Who can measure the temperature of anything when you’re hungry?
The government wasn’t expecting this explosion, because they have always known how to gauge when the oil was beginning to boil, and finding a way to put out the fire before the disaster. Now, with its face burnt with all of these images traveling the world over for the first time, they are going mad and are shouting out too, but without time to put on their usual masks.
There aren’t enough masks for all of its repressive machine, they don’t have time to formulate a proper plan because up until now it was only 10, 15, or maybe 30 people who would go out to protest in one place or two in the country, and a lot easier to repress if it happened in the eastern provinces, with little media presence.
Now, the croquettes are jumping in the pan and exploding everywhere, and this confidence that the State had (because it’s anti-conspiracy machine worked to perfection, and this is the same confidence that betrayed them and makes their loyal executioners in civil and military uniform forget that they are being recorded by cameras and cellphones, showing their fear kicking, harassing, shooting helpless people, in their peaceful majority, as well as international members of the accredited press in Cuba and people who were probably not even protesting, but had joined in with the shouting when witnessing disproportionate use of police or military force.
I saw riot police training in the old La Cabana fortress, many years ago. We used to pass by there quite regularly so we could take the tunnel and my friend and I were really taken aback to see this kind of police troops in Cuba. If there’s one thing the Cuban government has taken good care of, it’s openly repressing the Cuban people. It was supposed to be a revolution by everyone for everyone and for everyone’s wellbeing. That is to say, everybody agreed with the perfect government and, as a result, there was no reason to protest, much less to repress them.
Today, there is very little room for surprises.
The Cuban government’s slight disposition for democracy is crystal clear in everyone’s minds. If ten people take to the streets to express their non-conformity with government actions, they are taken away, arrested or semi-strangled, and they are detained with no respect for their human rights.
If there are 100 or 1000 people, it’s too much for them, there will be shots, pepper spray, beatings and arrests in the same conditions… even if you’re not on the street protesting, but you’ve been “flagged” by State Security, or have a criminal history, they’ll come knocking on your door. It’s what they always do.
The government knows full well that there are more than enough reasons to go out and protest, but their discourse remains the same regardless of this: imperialism, mercenaries; they repeat it mechanically, because they know that they will only be believed by those who cling onto their belief in them because if they didn’t, their world of illusion would shatter.
You don’t need to sugarcoat the excuses for these people, the rest of them… well, why are you going to try something a little more intelligent if the truth is so clear?
If my heart wasn’t in a knot for all of these Cubans whose whereabouts remain unknown, for those who are gravely injured or maybe even dead; for all of the repression that is coming, I would be laughing dead to see the great embarassment the Cuban government are in. The great embarassment of accusing another government of making its own people protest or, just daring to finally speak their minds.