Cuba: Containing, Isolating and Wearing the Opponent Down

Havana Police patrol car. Photo: Caridad

Vicente Morin Aguado

HAVANA TIMES — The arrest of several members of the opposition at Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion some days ago ruined the hopes for a 2015 of joy for all Cubans. In Cuba, a group of women who dress in white have been taking to the streets for years, each wearing a flower as their only weapon. There is no shortage of repressive measures against dissidents taken by the island’s government.

As the year 2014 was coming to an end, we learned that Yoani Sanchez’s husband, journalist and editor of the independent online newspaper 14yMedio (whose editor in chief is the renowned dissident blogger), was again detained in Havana.

I recall that, years ago, Sanchez was detained without cause while attempting to travel to Bayamo in order to attend the oral and public hearing of an allegedly irresponsible driver, a Spaniard surnamed Carromero, who had been the driver of the car in which Catholic dissident Oswaldo Paya Sardiñas perished.

After receiving the Sarakhov Award, Paya had become something of an untouchable in Cuba. Approaching him was something of a challenge to the Cuban authorities, always ready to prevent any kind of contact with the prestigious political opponent. Their strategy was to contain and isolate him and let time pass, demonstrate that he was someone without a valid alternative for the country.

This is an old story within our borders, it is not a communist invention. It would be good, therefore, to look back at our history.

On January 1, 1994, Sub-Comandante Marcos defied the corrupt and inefficient Mexican state. Twenty eventful years later, Rafael Sebastian Guillen Vicente is no longer breaking news and has no direct implications on the political life of his country.

México fue el único gobierno latinoamericano que no aceptó el aislamiento de Cuba dictado por Washington, cuando gobernaba la dictadura institucional de un partido político, el PRI, en tanto el país respetaba en apariencia las formas democráticas tradicionales. Desde la patria azteca llegó la revolución cubana. Las élites del poder ensayan en la nación vecina una mecánica de resistencia a las protestas populares cuya esencia es apostar por el cansancio.

Mexico was the only Latin American country that did not accept the isolation of Cuba, as dictated by Washington, under the institutional dictatorship of the Revolutionary Independence Party (PRI), while the country respected the forms and appearance of a traditional democracy. The Cuban revolution began in Mexico. The power elites in this neighboring nation essay a kind of resistance to popular protests which consists in wearing the opponent down.

After three months of demands calling for the return of 43 students kidnapped during an operation conducted by the police and drug traffickers, the Mexican president continues to turn a deaf ear on these. The students have yet to appear and, of course, they will most likely not appear alive, unless a miracle worthy of the Virgin of Guadalupe occurs.

Getting back to the once much-publicized Sub-Comandante Macos and the equally publicized Ladies in White in Cuba, the question is what will happen in the future, when we have an authoritarian state with enough money to pay for all of the people who are needed to ride out the storm, betting on the inevitable weariness of the opponent.

In Mexico, a formally democratic country, they initially applied a strategy of containment against the Zapatista insurgents, going as far as allowing the popular Marcos to organize his own political party and tour the country. We should not forget this is the same strategy being applied with the FARC in Colombia right now.

Cuba is changing. We are heading towards a society that is different from the one envisaged decades ago by the top revolutionary leadership, headed by the Castro brothers. Raul Castro himself is leading these inevitable transformations, while declaring these will be implemented without “renouncing to one of our principles.”

Any citizen with a minimum of judgment condemns the actions of the government headed by Mexican President Peña Nieto, which has been unable to respond to the demands surround the 43 missing students. No such atrocities are committed in Cuba, but the strategy of containing, isolating and finally wearing the opponent down is used again and again by its authoritarian government.

The strategy consists in fencing the enemy in, not attacking them directly, or maintaining confrontation to a minimum, then allowing protests that do not result in bloodbaths, and protracting this as long as possible or for eternity, as a bureaucratic regime is able to hold its ground and dilute any popular protest that defies it indefinitely.

Mexico has shown the way of the hitherto successful elites. Colombia follows in its footsteps, and Cuba is not the exception when it comes to these repressive practices. This has nothing to do with Left or Right, it is a problem concerning the State, a repressive structure according to Marxism.

It is up to us to respond intelligently to the strategy of containment, isolation and weariness, whose essence transcends mulatto women, rum, music and celebration we are seeing among those who continue to consider themselves survivors.
Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]


One thought on “Cuba: Containing, Isolating and Wearing the Opponent Down

  • In discussing the 43 missing mexican students, Vicente writes, “No such atrocities are committed in Cuba”…

    I am not so sure about that. In the 13 de Marzo incident, (aka the Tugboat Massacre) of 1994, 41 Cubans, including 10 children, drowned. Survivors have declared that the Cuban coastguard deliberately rammed the tugboat and then drove their boats in circles around the sinking vessel for 40 minutes before rescuing the remaining 31 survivors.

    Vicente also makes the honest observation, “This is an old story within our borders, it is not a communist invention.”

    That is tragically true. The Castro regime has been condemned for it’s repression of dissidents. Before them the Batista dictatorship repressed, arrested, tortured and murdered political opponents, students and dissidents. The Machado era had many similar incidents. Going back to the 19th century, the Spanish colonial government ruthlessly repressed Cubans who demanded political representation and independence for the island.

    Which prompts the question: why have Cubans been so hard on each other for so long?

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