HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 29 – When I commented to some friends that I was going to get involved in writing for Havana Times, the immediate response was “Girl, you better be careful!”
Yeah, they’re going to be surprised.
What has happened is that fear has been instilled in Cubans to such an extent that there exists an almost pathological fear in people of free expression.
To present ideas, to speak out, to express an opinion, these are seen as restricted exclusively to the domain of so-called feedback meetings with community delegates or the many other meetings we’re required to attend.
If in any sprawling bus line you happen to strike up a conversation with anyone, and — inevitably — the issues that come up are the economy, declining values, violence, or corruption, there will always be someone who, without being invited, will feel they have the right to intervene with worn-out phrases like, “Listen comrade, be careful with what you’re saying.” Or, when they’re more fundamentalist, they’ll call you a gusana (a counter-revolutionary maggot) or remind you that you earned your degree “thanks to the Revolution”!
It’s logical to think that these people have been fully manipulated for more than half a century or that, in some cases, they’re committed to the system because of the few material benefits they receive, or that ultimately (and most probably) they suffer from clinical paranoia.
It is precisely that: paranoia. But is it also reflected in fear of being caught on camera, of being identified and singled out by the grand inquisitor?
One has to realize that informants, squealers, rats — however you want to call them — they’re everywhere, and you don’t know who they are. They listen to what you say, they report on how you think, they follow you, they monitor your contacts and they’ll always give you a bad references on everything from a job to the right to have a telephone or a TV.
So writing for a website that is of no interest to nor an initiative of the government, and where people discuss freedom, is something to be careful about!
My friends are a bit paranoiac and try to protect me. Me, on the other hand, with infinite pleasure I express my ideas (those of the majority), and I’m convinced that after these lines I’ll have to start saving in hard currency, because my neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) will never put me on the list of those comrades in line to buy a discounted TV.