By Darío Alejandro Alemán (El Estornudo)
HAVANA TIMES – After the large-scale protests that on July 11 shook dozens of towns and cities, an Excel document has not stopped being shared on social networks. This is the “List of detained / disappeared / released” which, through constant updating, keeps track of those imprisoned by the regime after the demonstrations. Eighteen days after the historic event, the Excel sheet exceeded 725 entries, each with a name, each name with a story of dungeons, beatings or legal arbitrariness to tell.
Those who make the list – mostly women – tell that at the beginning there were 20. The usual 20, they told me, those who for years have gone through what hundreds of people went through in just two weeks. Since then, the number of names has mushroomed. Through the list, patterns of repression are sought, data that reveal the types of punishment for dissent in Cuba, but it is difficult. There are families of detainees and also released people who prefer not to speak. There is fear. The beatings, arrests and summary trials are swords of Damocles hung throughout the island.
After July 11th the witch hunt broke out. The same videos and photos that revealed the reality of the protests, which the government tried to muzzle through internet blackouts and censorship of social networks, are now used by the regime to identify faces and hunt down protesters. The repressors, in addition, have released their most efficient hounds: the snitches.
The figure of the snitch is, by itself, the best-greased mechanism of a totalitarian regime against any protest. Their work is divided into three basic functions: prophylaxis, illusory omnipresence, and hunting. The first is to sniff out tiredness and discord in any of its forms, to do a preventive cleaning of everyone that threatens the uniformity of criteria. The second does not need the informer to move a finger. It is enough to suspect his/her presence for mistrust to cripple all initiative. The third, designed for when the previous two fail, is the one that has allowed the arrests and disappearances to continue even today.
The snitches, by the way, also have their list, surely in some air-conditioned office belonging to the Ministry of the Interior. Of course, the Cuban dictatorship learned well from its former friends in Eastern Europe. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the citizens of East Germany had the opportunity to search their names in the archives of the Stasi. There were so many watched and informers that those few who could not be found suffered a kind of frustration as they felt marginalized and ignored by the political police. Similar lists in Cuba will be forthcoming in good time.
I pause in writing to check the time. It is 11:03 pm on July 29, 2021. The “List of detained / disappeared / released”, the only thing that matters now, confirms that there are at least 115 people still detained, 11 missing, 17 processed through summary trials and 110 released. Of the latter, many are under house arrest. The legal status of another 164 is in the process of verification. That’s to say, while I write and you sleep, work, have dinner or wake up, 126 Cubans are in the hands of the police, 11 of them completely incommunicado and with no clues to their specific whereabouts.
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