Cuba’s Protectors of the Faith

Fernando Ravsberg*

The reopening of the “Opera of the Street” is another example of the loss of political support by the “protectors of the faith” (Photo: Raquel Perez)

HAVANA TIMES — Intellectual Daniel Diaz is making comparisons between the Spanish Inquisition and the return in Cuba of the “sad habit of hastily casting aspersions while relying on impunity afforded from belonging to a given power structure that is difficult to challenge.”

In his open letter he adds that this practice “is not an evil characteristic of only one epoch or a single political system; it is an aberration in the use of authority that can affect any human group, in any place or time, and it is not as rare as we tend to believe.”

Today on the island these “protectors of the faith” have returned to the fray with a crackdown on all independent projects that are beyond their control, this time throwing stones without revealing their hand, which could mean they no longer have as much official support.

While the country is immersed in trying to turn utopian dreams into realities, and attempting to convert “over-fulfilled goals” into food on the table, they are weakening the nation by dividing it into heretics and the faithful, making enemies out of the unholy.

They are accusing Daniel and other intellectuals of working for “the empire” (the US government), pointing to the website Havana Times as a mouthpiece of the dissident movement, compelling the self-destruction of La Joven Cuba and banning the “Opera of the Street” cultural program for the mortal sin of allowing its participants to make a living off of their wages.

The Catholic magazine Espacio Laical believes this is being done to “maintain the old status quo of civil institutions,” and is calling for an end to the baseless rants, insults and “the smearing of emerging projects and their leaders.”

This time, other voices have added themselves to the usual complainers. The president of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), Miguel Barnet, publicly rejected “this unjustifiable wrong, for which every apology is insufficient.”

He explained that “Desiderio Navarro and Victor Fowler (both members of the National Council of UNEAC), and Lina de Feria, Reina Maria Rodriguez and Daniel Diaz Mantilla (…) are writers who work daily in defense of Cuban culture and deserve our respect and our trust.”

The president of the Artists and Writers Association (UNEAC), Miguel Barnet, supported the writers who were publically accused of working in plans of the United States. Photo: Raquel Perez

Some of the young people who write for Havana Times hired an attorney to file a lawsuit charging slander by those who leveled accusations against them. Indeed, wanting to take their case to the Court of the Inquisition itself is quite a daring move.

Nor did people let the lowering of the curtain on the “Opera of the Street” company go unanswered. Though fully aware of the power held by those who gave the order to shut down that cultural program, the National Council of the Performing Arts published a letter openly supporting the company.

The council’s leadership said that “Opera of the Street” plays an important cultural role in the community, which is why it would continue working in its locale and receive some public funding. The Arts Council did everything possible in its hands.

Almost simultaneously, the blog La Joven Cuba (from the University of Matanzas) announced that it was ceasing to publish, without an explanation. Speculation of censorship circulated because these young people — who advocate socialism — spoke out with critical positions.

In Camagüey Province, another young journalist for a local paper wrote an excellent article that looked into the costs borne by the provincial Communist Party in moving its headquarters and contrasted these to the chronic shortages suffered by social programs in the area.

The article — published on her personal blog, Nube de Alivio (Cloud of Relief) — remained online just a couple of days. The “protectors of the faith” pressured her to remove it on the grounds that it didn’t fit within the “doctrine” and could be exploited by the followers of Satan.

Martin Luther King said that what was most worrisome was the “silence of the good.” Desiderio Navarro agrees when he says that the “lack of a sufficient public response to these characters encourages more aggressive actions that violate socialist law.”

Desiderio demands an end to slander and defamation “as the instruments of neo-Stalinist cultural policy that certain nostalgic people and isolated brotherhoods are still trying to impose on Cuba, using the media and their positions within government and social institutions.”

Hope was revived when the responses by Desiderio and Daniel appeared in the Camaguey newspaper and on Espacio Laical’s editorial page. It reemerged as well with the irreverent youth of Havana Times, the Arts Council defending the truth and UNEAC standing up to slander.

A colleague recently accused me of being an optimist; but I can’t avoid this because I think that this time things won’t reach the point of burning at the stake whatever “heretic” goes around trying to make Cuba an inclusive nation “with all and for the good of all.”
(*) An authorized Havana Times translation of the original published by BBC Mundo.