By Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES — The great Cuban novelist and journalist Lisandro Otero used to say that, while one can never be certain of what comes next under capitalism, one is oblivious as to what came before under socialism. It sounds like a joke, but, in Cuba, people know this is gospel truth.

Cuba’s history has not yet been fully written and, when someone tries to touch on any subject considered taboo, the censors lunge at them en masse, like hungry wolves chasing an easy prey that became separated from the flock.

The blog of Proyecto Arcoiris (“Rainbow Project”) was shut down for a month on Cuba’s official Reflejos (“Reflections”) blogging portal because it violated Section 6 of the User Norms. In other words, it was off-lined for demanding that the government offer a public apology for those imprisoned in the Military Units for Production Aid (UMAP).

These camps emerged in the 1960s in the form of farms labor camps, where homosexuals, bisexuals, religious practitioners and anyone who didn’t fit the revolutionary mold was sent.

Pastor Suarez recently recounted his experiences in Cuba’s UMAP to a young Cuban historian.Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

All of these people – Cardinal Jaime Ortega, reverend Raul Suarez and singer-songwriter Pablo Milanes, among many others – are deserving of an apology. What’s more, they deserve to see the history of that dark moment for the nation and their lives as individuals completed and the chapter closed.

Nietzsche once warned that “all truths that are kept silent become poisonous,” but some never appear to tire of ingesting the poison of their own silence. It is not uncommon for taboos to become boomerangs that crash right into the face of the forgetful.

This late in history, no nation is innocent of abuses against other peoples or its own citizens. Most, however, appear to understand that trying to conceal these barbarous acts is futile.

I am thinking of the Holy Inquisition, slavery, the slaughter of Indians in the Americas, religious persecution, the Holocaust, the guillotine of the Human Rights revolution, Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the Plan Condor and numberless other cases.

It is true unwritten histories exist in other parts of the world, and one is wary when told, for instance, that the investigation into the assassination of a certain president will not be declassified until decades after the murder.

Thanks to censorship, the blog of Proyecto Arcoiris has made its way around the globe and the history of the UMAP resurfaces.

Next to no one has made the kind of apology the Proyecto Arcoiris demands – the powerful don’t make a habit of asking forgiveness. However, history is there, warning future generations as they head down new roads towards a better world.

Those who do not know their own history are condemned to repeat the mistakes of their parents and grandparents. A people who are unable to write its own history is condemned to have others write it for them. A people who do not learn from their history commonly lose their way.

And it seems Cuban history came to an end in 1959 – we’ve had nearly 60 years of very little history. Nothing is written about differences among revolutionaries, about the country’s economic mistakes, quarrels with “sister” socialist nations or Cuba’s relationship with guerrilla groups in Latin America.

The UMAP are only a small part of the nation’s history that’s kept “classified.” The Christian Center for Reflection and Dialogue, however, has just addressed the issue in depth and reverend Suarez decided to speak about his experiences as a young Cuban historian.

If the punishment logic applied to the Proyecto Arcoirisis stands, I wonder if they are thinking of closing down the center or whether they’ll bar Raul Suarez from granting any more interviews. They aren’t likely to do anything, as the size of those preys is larger than the courage of the wolves.

At a time when Orwell’s 1984 and the reports of an émigré journalist are being published in Cuba, those who speak of history continue to be punished. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

At a time when Orwell’s 1984 and a compendium of émigré Uva de Aragon’s works are being published in Cuba, the incident involving Proyecto Arcoiris strikes one as an incomprehensible contradiction – contradictory signs that spread unease across the country.

To demand accountability from the president is not a show of disrespect, it is the right all Cuban citizens have and accounting to citizens is one of the duties of any representative of the people. To repress such exchange among equals leads to hypocrisy.

No one should be punished for referring to historical facts and no publication censored for telling the truth. To have a different opinion must cease to be a stigma if Cuba aspires to one day have all citizens take part in the construction of society.


10 thoughts on “Dark Chapters of Cuban History Still Taboo

  • The imperfect U.S. system is preferable to a totalatarian regime like Cuba. Nothing bottom up about Cuba rule. A small group with brutal measures has imposed their will on a population that would not willingly consent to their rule.

  • You do not get to change the topic of this thread. The topic is the existence of dark secrets the Casteo regime wants to keep hidden. It matters nothing what label you apply to their ideology. What matters is the fact the murderers remain in power, with immunity from justice.

  • While no one is blameless in this incident, the Cuban government had been asking the US to stop these flights over Havana for two years saying their only way to stop them would be to shoot them down which would be tragic and cause an international incident. The Brothers to the Rescue pilots were told before they took off that the Cuban government had officially notified the US government that they were going to be shot down this time. They choose to fly over Havana anyway.

    Only when US government documents were declassified years later did we learn the actual events were far from the surprise unprovoked attack presented to the American public.

  • Capitalism is antithetical to democracy.
    You can have capitalism.
    You can have democracy.
    But NOT both simultaneously
    What is what is wrong with capitalism be it free enterprise ( US) capitalism or state (Cuban) capitalism is that neither is DEMOCRATIC.
    The democratic alternative to these two totalitarian systems is a democratically-run bottom-up ,majority -rule , worker-run economy.
    That would be called a social economy or socialist if you like because it serves the needs of society.
    Capitalism , as its name implies, serves the need of capital (moneyed interests).
    Answer this please :
    Would you be in favor of a democratic economic system as described or would you prefer what the totalitarian forms the US or Cuba has ?
    Do not attempt to tell me you’d like some reformed sort of free enterprise capitalism because it cannot be reformed.

  • And did the BTR flights continue after those were shot down ?
    I haven’t heard anything since about continued flights.
    It would seem that for civilians like BTR to be conducting foreign policy on their own would be a violation of US law .
    Flying into ANY country’s airspace unwanted will get you shot down in a New York minute.
    And yes, the US COULD send jets and destroy Cuba too but it appears that as murderous as the American Empire is , even it doesn’t have your bloodlust.
    Have you ever consider taking a moral position ?

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