Communist regimes are a form of latent civil war between the government and the people. Milovan Djilas, The New Class, 1957.
By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — We are still hearing the echoes of the veritable political blows dealt the Cuban leadership by Obama in their own ring, but these are not the only blows dealt the system, from behind bars, by those who would challenge the island’s current authoritarianism on a daily basis.
Cuba’s official media have not ceased in their efforts to minimize the repercussions of the US president’s brilliant speech. Even Fidel Castro stepped in on behalf of his younger brother, publishing a long “reflection” in which, after a laundry list of complaints spanning decades, he concluded:
“We are also capable of producing the food and material resources we need, on the basis of the effort and intelligence of our people alone.”
Could it be the Comandante, now a devoted agricultural researcher, has a miracle in store for us? Let us hope it is not at all in the style of the F-4 super-cows, the Havana coffee plantations or the 10-million-ton sugar harvest.
It remains to be seen what the current Cuban president will do with the political prisoners he promised to release immediately upon being notified of their names. In the meantime, we are left to deal with temporary arrests. We would have to ask the Ladies in White the total number of hours in prison they endured last year. They would likely constitute a new Guinness World Record.
Even before Obama had boarded his plane out of Cuba, the Cuban Forum for Rights and Liberties had declared:
In the course of the first years of the revolution, after all initial and violent resistance had been crushed, the country’s repressive mechanisms were perfected as the communist system became consolidated.
“We demand that the repression of all Cubans who defend their fundamental rights and freedoms cease immediately, amnesty for all political prisoners and the ratification and monitoring of the implementation of UN Human Rights Conventions.”
The forum also stated that “if these preliminary suggestions are ignored, the US president’s visit will serve only to consolidate the totalitarian regime and will not help empower pro-democracy activists.”
The contradictions in this morally justified demand come to the fore when its proponents demand it be included in the direct negotiations between the two governments. When the tenth US administration since the revolution has decided to put aside its policy of pressures and offer Marti’s white rose to its adversary, it is out of place to turn to a political method that has yielded no results in the country for over half a century.
Obama was very clear during his address at Havana’s Gran Teatro: “I’ve made it clear that the United States has neither the capacity, nor the intention to impose change on Cuba. What changes come will depend upon the Cuban people.”
The essential aspects of Cuba’s current situation have to do with the origins of the prevailing totalitarian system. This premise helps us understand the failure of previous US policies.
Cuba’s bearded rebels defeated Batista under the legitimate call to restore the island’s 1940 constitution. Quickly, Fidel Castro was to use the power he’d secured to set up a State apparatus that ultimately became institutionalized as a single, supposedly socialist party.
In the course of the first years of the revolution, after all initial and violent resistance had been crushed, the country’s repressive mechanisms were perfected as the communist system became consolidated. Its operations then began to take on a selective nature.
Through propaganda and other means, fear was instilled in people, who, to this day, believe that the police organs are infallible and still harbor feelings of impotence that lead to evasion, the only imaginable way out for them. The end result is that people chose to leave at any cost. Fear is paralyzing. In private, dissidents are admired for their courage. Publicly, they are denigrated.
There was applause, but Obama isn’t president of Cuba. It would be naïve to ask him for protection against the excesses of local authorities.
The Cuban government does not employ mass mechanisms of violent repression. The totalitarian system managed to install even more efficient mechanisms: a total monopoly over the educational system, the media, art distribution, employment, wages and even travel by individuals inside the country and abroad.
It would be a question of undermining these monopolies, eroding them, if the needed step towards the realization of the fought-four liberties is to be taken.
This past March 22, the US president exclaimed before his Cuban counterpart: “the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights.”
There was applause, but Obama isn’t president of Cuba. It would be naïve to ask him for protection against the excesses of local authorities. We are left only with the legacy of Antonio Maceo, who, 120 years ago, wrote: “To beg for one’s right is the mark of cowards unable to exercise such rights.”
Those who dare exercise their rights without asking for permission are showing us the way, because the latent civil war between the people and the government will continue.
In connection with complacency and fear, I leave you with the champion of non-violence Martin Luther King:
“(…) time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
Vicente Morin Aguado: email@example.com