“Silverio has been sentenced to the ostracism of a lack of information, and it’s the duty of every one of us to break this silence, so we can get him out of jail.”
Por Justo Antonio Triana (Árbol Invertido)
HAVANA TIMES – This is Silverio Portal: a black man who has suffered the same police brutality as George Floyd. A poor and responsible black man, a Cuban political prisoner who has lost his sight in his left eye (and almost in the right eye too), the result of police beatings.
However, his story won’t go viral because he doesn’t live in the US. The large media outlets have no interest in something if it doesn’t sell, or have a community to support it. It’s the price you pay for being a dissident in a country where thinking or acting independently is a crime.
Racism is systematic and systemic in Cuba – baseball player Yasiel Puig has already told us about his experiences. After trying so hard to pretend it doesn’t exist, racism in Cuba is deeply rooted in the very fabric of our society. The worse thing is that we don’t suffer from only one form of racism… This cultural racism is a joke just like the ideological apartheid the Cuban Communist Party imposes on us. An apartheid that doesn’t see race, or religion, or gender; it despises them all the same.
Why Silverio’s case is worrysome
Silverio’s case is dire on two counts. He represents (without having thought about it) the battle against these two demons: prejudice and the system. Silverio is the Afro-Cuban community raising a fist against everyone who oppresses us.
Silverio was already in jail when Floyd was killed… When Floyd was killed, I saw how thousands of Cuban Black Lives Matter activists popped up out of nowhere. Cubans who had never dabbled with politics – asking for justice for the US citizen.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this solidarity, but I have to ask: Where is the justice for this Cuban? When will we ask for it? Are we witnesses of injustice every day, and we only protest it when it happens in another country? What’s the name for that? Hypocrisy or cowardice?
This man didn’t have a criminal record. His crime was advocating for a Havana without houses collapsing: he was concerned about his people. Yet his family haven’t seen him in over half a year.
His imprisonment by the dictatorship, authenticates him even more in the eyes of History. There isn’t a single decent person in Cuba not bothered by the police at one point or another.
Our duty is to break the silence
Portal is an old man, and if he dies in prison – or if they help drive him to his death, like they have been doing – there won’t be any protests in his name beyond the decent Cubans who do what they always should do. His death won’t lead to a popular uprising, nor will it appear in The New York Times, or on CNN. Much less on Cuban TV. Silverio has been sentenced to the ostracism of a lack of information. It’s the duty of every one of us to break this silence, so we can get him out of jail.
If there’s one thing the Afro-American community should be given credit for, it’s knowing how to defend its members. It doesn’t matter whether they are Harvard graduates, or whether they’ve just come out of jail.
The Cuban government still has its knee on Silverio Portal’s neck. Likewise, on each and every one of our necks at the same time. White Cubans, black Cubans, mulatto Cubans… we have all suffered the same abuses. When will we be able to defend at least those who deserve to be defended?