Honor for Those Who Suffer in the Name of Freedom

By Charly Menendez Castillo

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES – A specter is terrifying Cuba, it’s the ghost of independent art. The Communist State and its pack of ferocious hounds have joined forces against this ghost, as if the world’s eyes weren’t always watching Cuba, or as if art were something unconnected to the human condition.

While the global norm tends to be making headway towards establishing human rights that are recognized by a group of nations, in the land of Jose Marti, our government (stateless in every sense) is giving itself the luxury of promulgating a decree, Decree 349, which is illegal and arbitrary, as it tries to legalize oppression and injustice while clumsily criminalizing independent art.

The Cuban government’s divorce with art is inherent in its politics. It’s a well-known fact that ever since the early days of the wrongly-called “Revolution”, everything and anyone that doesn’t share or stands up to its administrative methods have been demonized, and Cuban artists haven’t been able to escape this fate.

Over these past 60 years, there have been many victims of a segregated cultural policy that suppresses civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in the name of freedom. However, freedom is only truly possible when the rights of people who think and act differently are recognized.

The just resistance that Cuban intellectuals and artists embody today isn’t something that has fallen from the sky or been imported from any other country, political ideology or economic system; it’s the direct result of the tyranny that the Communist State has imposed on them since the very beginning. If they want to persecute anyone, the only ones they can and should be persecuting are the bureaucratic and military class who are still hijacking the Cuban people’s right to self-determination, even today.

Maybe centralization and planning can work in the economic sector, just maybe, but it’s impossible in culture, art, because artistic creation is a form of human’s freedom of speech. This decree-law betrays Cuba’s purest ethical and cultural values and reveals the real nature of our Communist dictatorship, making it clear that everything is forbidden when it comes to art and culture in Cuba, except for what the Government allows, and also shedding light on the fact that Cuban intellectuals and artists have no say in the decisions the Government makes when it comes to national cultural policy.

So, we must ask ourselves: who is looking out for, protecting and defending Cubans’ rights in Cuba? And then they don’t want the international community to demand rights for the Cuban population… There’s absolutely no doubt that the government has shot itself in the foot with decree-law 349, which is the precursor to the end of Communism in Cuba, which is on the horizon because the government can only rule the country thanks to its bureaucratic repression and the Army.

Shame swells in every dignified Cuban’s chest, in every upright Cuban, as they watch how Cuban intellectuals and artists are being pushed towards a similar ostracism they experienced in the 1970s, imposed by the regime and its cultural institutions. Today, our historic situation is different, Cuba’s correlation of forces is different, our people’s love for freedom is growing every day, young people are no longer scared to speak their minds and more and more people are losing their fear of this dictatorship.

If only reason, good sense, ethics and love for Cuba and the Cuban people would take root in the hearts of everyone who is supporting such a vile decree today. Justice always prevails, sooner or later, and honor is only reserved for those who deserve it.

Those who are oppressed for standing up against injustice will be compensated for their daring, for History’s seats of honor belong to them.