Cuban Government Reacts to the Population’s Growing Civic Awareness

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

The big three, General Raul Castro, head of the all-powerful Communist Party (l), Juan Ramon Machado Ventura (r) Castro’s second in command in the Communist Party and Miguel Diaz Canel (c) their hand-picked president during the last year.  Photo:

HAVANA TIMES – The Communist dream is to invent a “drug” to cure the “human disease” of freedom and democracy, or at least this is what their actions seem to tell us. If it wasn’t for this small detail, this problem, they would be able to govern forever and be the people’s Gods of Redemption.

Why do we resist being this passive and homogeneous multitude who need to be guided by them, the “Vanguard”? No, they can’t get their heads around it.

What a drag! People want to be their own guides, they want to take part in public life and some even dare to challenge the official and sacrosanct leadership, with their own natural leadership. Because, to the tyrants’ great disgrace, there are always some people who dare to break the mold, who aspire to change things and prefer to be free. And, worse yet, they ruffle up the flock, and they stop forming part of this flock.

Jose Marti described this with his masterful depth and lyricisim, which came to him oh so naturally. And, even though he tried to put it in the simplest terms possible because he was writing for children in this particular case, he hit the nail on the head: “When there are many men without decorum, there are always others who themselves possess the decorum of many men. These are the ones who rebel (…). Embodied in those men are thousands of men, a whole people, human dignity.”

Recently, a series of events and changes have allowed Cubans to gain greater civic awareness. Political Society is the oldest because it has existed ever since we evolved from Primitive Communities. However, it’s very complex and abnormal in Cuba. Power is monopolized by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) in government, and a very scattered opposition exists underground, or in exile, which hasn’t been able to mature enough to wrestle a significant space on the political arena from the Communists.

The Ladies in White during one of their Havana marches. Photo:

The embryo of Civil Society has more potential to break the PCC’s irontight blockade on our people’s freedom and progress, unless a miracle happens within our opposition. I personally believe that this began with attempts to create independent unions on the island, but to tell you the truth, it hasn’t been a spontaneous or fixed process.

The appearance of the Ladies in White in 2003 was the real beginning. A real civil society group, whose objectives weren’t political, as they didn’t aspire to come into power, they were just advocating for freedom and better treatment for political prisoners; defending all of our Human Rights, on the whole.

Then, independent art this century has become not only more and more critical, but more distant from the system, almost always anti-establishment, and its climax has been the creation of the San Isidro Group. Artists of their time, restless and unsatisfied with the government’s dogma and chains, they have freed themselves of their shackles and became an “embryo” with the Museum of Dissidence and a “toddler” in their fight against Decree-Law 349.

With public protests in the form of controversial performance art pieces; using subtle artistic/literary works or ones that protest more openly; debates; and a lot of activism online; have sent their message of non-conformity with the Government and are helping to create civic awareness. Predictable as always, the government calls them counter-revolutionaries, puppets of Imperialism and mercenaries. Just like they have been labeling every Cuban who doesn’t follow them blindly, over the past six decades. 

Activists for laws to protect animals in Cuba.  Photo: Irina Echarry

Other groups that defend animal rights have been doing interesting work and gaining their own space. They have their own methods of working for their objectives, which are limited because of a lack of resources. They have collected signatures from the population with the intention of pushing for a law that protects animals, and are very active on social media. Recently, they have dared to go one step further and summoned and held a march in the capital. They even got authorization to do so.

It was a very important precedent because it was the first time a group of Cubans took to the streets to protest without being summoned or organized by the Communist Party, which has always done this by using their subordinate organizations. The ones that are made up by a pseudo-civil society, which could ironically be called “official civil society”.

The alarm was so great that news was leaked that the People’s Power official who authorized the march, or tolerated it at least, was “dismissed” from his position. They are terrified of the Cuban people gaining awareness, and slowly trying to reclaim their rights, their sovereignty. They fear that we’ll start off by dealing with non-political matters and then end up demanding things that do away with their hegemony, like a multi-party Parliament and a democratic government, elected directly by voters. This is why they have put on the brakes.

The self-organized, unauthorized, Gay Pride march on May 11, 2019 in Havana.  Photo: Irina Echarry

And, these brakes could be seen last Saturday May 11th, when the Police and State Security dispersed the spontaneous Gay Pride march, which had been officially rebaptized in Cuba as the “Conga against Homophobia”. Mariela Castro, Raul’s daughter and Fidel’s niece, a heterosexual woman (yet that doesn’t prevent her), wants to monopolize the Cuban LGBTIQ+ community’s struggle for their rights. Her struggle is praiseworthy, the authoritarianism she uses to fight is despicable. It seems to run in the family.

Foto: Irina Echarry

Baseless criticism has appeared about these civil rights or non-political movements in Cuba. High up in the government they know why, it’s because they threaten their single-party dictatorship. The opposition knows too, because the idea to fight the root cause of all our problems is clear: the lack of democracy.

However, in reality, everything that helps to raise civic awareness is good and useful. The saying “All roads lead to Rome” is pertinent in this case, because every gain in terms of freedom and civic spirit will help us to inevitable rescue our people’s sovereignty. However, in the meantime, we have to be aware that further repression will be the logical response from the Communist Party’s government, who thinks it owns Cuba.

They might even resort to extreme violence against the population (let’s hope they don’t), like in Nicaragua and Venezuela. However, freedom is the most precious thing we have, it has its price and we must be willing to pay for it. We’ll have to prepare ourselves because maybe, just maybe, the time is coming here in Cuba.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

25 thoughts on “Cuban Government Reacts to the Population’s Growing Civic Awareness

  • May 27, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    I was reflecting upon the title given to the first photograph shown in Osmel’s article and the unintentional humour.
    “The big three.”
    Certainly Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez qualifies for such description, but Raul Castro Ruz and Machado Ventura are barely knee high to a jack rabbit.

  • May 21, 2019 at 3:23 am

    The evangelicals are gaining a strong foothold in Cuba, the proposed laws to give equality to LGBT was crushed with money from these “jump for jesus” nutters.

  • May 20, 2019 at 11:30 am

    Oh! Martin, read my comment above and note that the lunch is conditional upon your forecast that: “Cuba’s system will collapse within a year.” I wait with some impatience!

  • May 20, 2019 at 12:19 am

    The CDRs Martin are not in offices – but in homes. Having actually seen the CDR computerized records of a Cuban close relative, I can assure you that they are detailed. The Presidents of the CDRs are not bureaucrats, they are local citizens. Their records of each individual are forwarded to MININT.
    The CDR is not confined to Havana, but has a President on every block of every village, town and city in the country.
    Every member of the those Cuban communities knows who is the president of the CDR on their block.
    I know that you think that can be overcome by some heroics, I think you are either denying the reality or unaware of it.

  • May 20, 2019 at 12:09 am

    I do hope you are correct Martin.
    I will not be in Cuba in September, but will be in October.

  • May 20, 2019 at 12:04 am

    Obviously J Edwin you view Cuba from afar unlike the author of the article Osmel Ramirez who lives in Cuba. Your academic view that the totalitarian communist dictatorship is a “noble socioeconomic experiment” displays a callous disregard for the Cuban people as guinea pigs. They include my wife, sixty seven relatives and a God-daughter.
    The accomplishments of which you speak, are that for a Cuban to criticize those who are carrying out this “noble” experiment, jail awaits, as doing so is a criminal offence.
    You do that which is customary for fellow travelers, by suggesting that things being perhaps even worse elsewhere justifies the Castro regime imposing its will upon the Cuban people.
    Leave your thoughts in the ivory tower and address reality for human beings rather socioeconomic nonsense.

  • May 19, 2019 at 11:48 pm

    One of your errors Anton is in saying “Fidel and his group ……………chose communism”. Those who fought in the revolution were not all communist, two outstanding examples being Camilo Cienfuegos and Huber Matos. It was only following the revolution that Fidel Castro chose communism, with Cienfuegos mysteriously disappearing and Matos with 38 other revolutionaries who were not supporters of communism being put on trail personally conducted by Fidel Castro and jailed. As Fidel Castro said at that trial, when one of his own officers – Faustino Perez – asked:
    “Is this Batistiano terror?”
    Fidel Castro responded:
    “No, this is revolutionary terror.”
    There was an option, and that was to choose democracy as did Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela – who earned respected places in history, but Fidel Castro in his craving for control and personal power chose otherwise, he chose communism and dictatorship.

  • May 19, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    If you really believe that Michael, then you must believe that pigs might fly. The “dogged determination” to which you refer is for the Communist Party dictatorship to hold on to power and control irrespective of the interests of the Cuban people who are but repressed pawns. You are kidding yourself if you believe that “the entire Western Hemisphere” will descend into the morass of the 19th century philosophy of Karl Marx as interpreted by Josef Stalin and adopted by the Castro regime. The majority of the people of the Westerrn Hemisphere enjoy freedom – and as demonstrated in Argentina, Brazil, Equador, Columbia and Chile, others having experienced socialism are now rejecting it.

  • May 19, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    Its been 60 years. How much longer will this Revolution take?

  • May 19, 2019 at 6:23 am

    I agree cuba needs animal protection
    I witness a cuban kicking his horse when the horse fell at pillon cuba.
    Disgusting. Kids pick up puppies by their legs. Bring in low cost euthenasi
    Sick dogs are in pain.

  • May 19, 2019 at 2:49 am

    To add to that: The CDR’s aren’t all that powerful. They consist mainly of opportunists, drunk and lazy bureaucrats, with no support and respect among the local population. Not people who are willing to die or fight for the Revolution. I predict that soon one of their offices will go up in flames. It only takes a bottle of alcohol and a match to light it. And both are still widely available in Havana.

  • May 19, 2019 at 2:37 am

    @Carlyle. 1) You already owe me lunch in Havana as the LGBT community already proved you wrong (with all your knowledge) that Raul is so cunning and his grip so tight that no “illegal” organized protest could ever happen. I opt for the National Hotel in September. 2) It’s true that my predictions are both optimistic and speculative. On the “strikes and the forming of alternative labor unions” scenario (like Poland in the ’80), I have doubts as well, my extremely low regards for the Cuban laborers and their organizational talent in mind. Another scenario could be the start of riots in Centro. The Cuban youth, disillusioned, materialistic, and superficial, have nothing to loose anymore and have NO respect for or affiliation with the Revolution. With daily basic necessary product getting scarce it’s not strange when somebody living in Havana’s Getto Centro might think it is a good idea to go to Old Havana where luxury products (there is even Lacoste shop) are on display for grabs and fine food and drinks are all over the place in nice 5* hotels. Riots like these, always startinng in poor urban area’s, are usually sparked by incidents like open violent mistreatment of locals by police forces (LA, Tunisia) or deadly disasters caused by mismanagement of the authorities (fire’s, collapsing of buildings, all I have witnessed by myself in Centro). I predict more “action” on Prado and surroundings where angry youth will clash with security force’s that want to prevent them entering the “tourist reserve” Old Havana. People who sell glass windows in Cuba will do great business in the near future I expect. But we will see. One thing is clear something is gonna happen in Cuba.

  • May 19, 2019 at 2:12 am

    @J.Edwin. Dignified? The Castro’s have turned the Cuban people into a bunch of beggars and thieves who steal everything they can from their workplace and beg tourists for money and ripping them off on a large scale. Workers that seem to have no pride in their work treating their “costumers” as if they should be happy to be served at all. The humanitarian value of Cuba’s international effort is laughable where the only reason for the Cuba government to support countries is to send out their medical personnel to often dangerous places where local doctors don’t want to work, paying them peanuts and pocketing the full price they charge those countries in need. How dignified is that? Do I really have to remind you that during the special period Fidel lived prosperously on his private island?

  • May 19, 2019 at 12:18 am

    Fidel switched his nation’s state of dependency from a country 90 miles away to a new dependency that was far more desperate and tenuous than the previous one, involving a totalitarian superpower some 8000 miles away.

    That is the only real change he made. Then, when that superpower 8000 miles distant disintegrated, he brought his nation to a state of poverty and virtual starvation unknown in Cuban history.

  • May 18, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    The Cuban revolution will outlive The very existence of America, a dogged determination defines Cuba, a resistance that will triumph and change the entire Western Hemisphere.

  • May 18, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    What a very narrow political view, poor historical understanding, and total lack of analysis.
    Despite understandable mistakes, the noble socioeconomic experiment that the Cuban Revolution represents, has not only dignified the life of Cubans, but through its internationalist orientation, has made an invaluable difference to struggling people around this globe.

    All this has been accomplished in spite of the fact that the experiment has never been given a chance to unfold in healthy circumstances. It has been subjected to hostility and sabotage at every stage.

    Clearly, if that were not so, many things would have been different in Cuba long ago. Those who are calling for what is called democracy in places that cannot match the accomplishments of the Cuban experiment, are not considering the very different circumstances that exist in Cuba. Political shock is what they are really calling for. Shock that would prove disastrous in the current circumstances.
    But I guess they expect to find themselves in a prosperous Puerto Rico, or maybe, independent Dominican Republic, with all the hopeless poor people and the rich elite.

  • May 18, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    The Castro’s choose communism because it allows for dictatorship liberal democracy doesn’t.
    And they foolishly thought it would work it doesn’t.
    All western countries have issues with human rights abuses in tyrannies Anton.
    It’s Russia and China that doesn’t they like abusing rights.

  • May 18, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    Your article and your vision is simplistic. Any addressing of this issue has to deal with United States and its hundred and fifty years of industrial colonization of everybody south of USA. Fidel and his group believed that they could not enact change without a complete cleansing I’ve everything connected to the USA. That left very little options and they chose communism. You cannot fault their choices without faulting the consistent abuse of the United States in interfering with other countries sovereignty, including countries today. In terms of human rights abuses both China and Saudi Arabia are worse than Cuba yet the United States and you have no issues with those countries.

  • May 18, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    With that I totally agree!

  • May 18, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    Well Martin, i hope you are correct and that I am incorrect regarding opportunity for Cubans to form “alternative labour unions despite the law forbidding such action. Secondly your view that “Cuba’s system will collapse within a year” is optimism in the extreme. But, if you are correct and my own assessment of the strength of the regime’s iron grip is incorrect, I’ll buy you lunch wherever you choose in Havana.
    I wait with impatience for the “first strikes” you forecast.

  • May 18, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    “further repression will be the logical response from the Communist Party’s government, who thinks it owns Cuba.
    They might even resort to extreme violence against the population (let’s hope they don’t), like in Nicaragua and Venezuela.”

    They are fully supportive of the brutal repression in Venezuela and Nicaragua.
    The communist party will do anything to keep power including extreme violence, they already have in their dark dungeons.

  • May 18, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Unfortunately the Cuban State has competition !!
    The LGBT community is being discriminated against, not so much as is traditionally the case by the Communists, but by the upsurge of Fundamentalist Christianity…
    So will the Communists join forces with the Christians ?
    Will the Christians join forces with the LGBT Community ??
    Or will the LGBT Community join forces with the Communists ???

    Its all up for grabs………..

  • May 18, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Oh..and I forgot to praise Osmel! I admire your courage for speaking up in public without a mask. Jose Marti would be proud of you!

  • May 18, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    I predict that the brave LGBT community that stood up on Prado has punched the first small, but in the end fatal crack, in Cuba’s system which will collapse within a year. We have to wait for the first strikes, formation of alternative labour unions resulting in massive demonstrations challeging directy the PCC instead of LGBT or Animal rights. Let’s see which group of truly patriotic labourers has the courage the lead the way.

  • May 18, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Once there is universal access to the internet the end will come quickly. That sleeping lion will roar to life!

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