Isbel Díaz and Mud-Slinging

Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

The new Labor Code. illustration:

HAVANA TIMES — Havana Times blogger Isbel Diaz (ID) has honored me in a very special way: he has written a response to my previous article. For this I am grateful to him, particularly because, after writing that my article is misguided, misinformed and disinformative, biased, disrespectful and fraught with blunders (among other things), he shows the kindness of heart to affirm that the article is at least “interesting.”

He also writes something every Cuban can understand: “I believe Dilla is once again trying his hand at mud-slinging.” I don’t doubt it, and I will always be grateful to analysts as sharp as ID when they remind me of this. There is, however, something ID seems to ignore: we’re all always invariably mud-slinging. Mud-slinging is almost a human inevitability – it is unavoidable. Thus, to do so is not exactly a problem, be it when one expresses an opinion in writing or among one’s bar buddies. The problem is that we are sometimes unaware that we carry the mud, and I believe this is the case with my friend ID,

ID is right to reproach me for stating that Cuba’s Labor Code made no mention of the issue of sexual orientation. I was a bit careless: I should have said that it is mentioned when the Code prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. This, however, would not have changed my thesis in the least, for it is mentioned only once, and the rest of the rights proclaimed by the legislation are grounded in a completely heterosexual and patriarchal perspective. If ID wants an example of this, he should see how the Code handles the issue of social security for the family.

In any event, the issue of Cuba’s LGTB community is only a pretext in my article. My intention was to address two other issues.

The first is the fragmentation and lack of autonomy that characterizes Cuban civil society and the way in which this castrates social initiatives, of which LGTB activism is but one example. ID can revel in the idea that the scant progress made by this community – gay parades included – is the result of the independent activism he feels a part of. I liked his presumptuous claim that his demands “are also the demands of the CENESEX.” He can’t, however, ask us to believe him, for all of us know that everything that has been accomplished in this area stems from the intervention of Raul Castro’s daughter, who has chosen the LGTB platform to make her political career. If we compare what she does with what some of her cousins and brothers are doing, we easily arrive at the conclusion that Mariela is not the worst the family has to offer – not by a long shot.

ID invokes the biblical allegory of the pot calling the kettle black – a persistent trauma suffered by island identities – when he compares Cuba’s situation with worse ones in order to conclude that things aren’t so bad at home. This is also a good way of ignoring the progress that LGTB organizations around the continent have made by taking to the public arena not only those issues that affect them, but also the worldview they defend. In this regard, Cuba is severely behind the times, even by Caribbean standards, even if the latter is the stage of the calamitous events ID refers to in his unbalanced comparison.

Allow me to mention one example. As many know, I spent fifteen agreeable years of my life in the Dominican Republic. I arrived there for political reasons, and I was able to closely follow the evolution of the country’s social movements, some of which I modestly took part in. The LGTB movement there faces very difficult conditions. The constitution forbids same-sex marriages and the Catholic Church makes a point of reminding people of this every day. But they put up a fight.

A few days ago, an LGTB coalition organized a gay pride parade down Santo Domingo’s beautiful ocean-drive avenue. They called on a number of public figures – activists, politicians, intellectuals and artists – to promote and lead the parade. The rally was also supported by organizations that address different issues – the environment, human rights, progressive political parties, churches and other. This turned the rally into a massive initiative with slogans and agendas that were diverse but which coincided in the idea that democracy and justice are either secured for all or for none.

This is what I am talking about. Cuban civil society will be built on the basis of individual movements, some of which (like the LGTB, Afro-Cuban, women’s and other movements) represent historic identities within Cuba. It could not be any other way. But no particular right is safe if it is not inscribed within a normative and procedural framework that enshrines rights as the inalienable and innate core of constitutional order and if these rights aren’t conceived as constitutive of forms of citizenship that abide by political loyalties (as has been the case in Cuba to this day).

There will be no rights for the LGTB community if there are no rights for everyone. It is impossible to secure a handful of individual rights while the dissident newspaper 14 y medio is banned, Cuesta Morua is denied travel abroad or UNPACU activists continue to be jailed and beaten. Nor will the Cuban nation be able to make an inch of progress if that part of the nation living beyond its borders today continues to be denied its rights as citizens.

The second issue has to do with the most important thing when a labor code is concerned. The true problem with this Labor Code is that it forbids independent trade unions, does not envisage the right to strike, reduces the social rights of workers and does not acknowledge their right to preserve their jobs regardless of their political views. It is yet another step taken by Cuba’s political elite in the process of establishing an authoritarian form of capitalism, for which they require a mass of dispossessed and subjugated workers.

Some friends have commented about the disproportionately aggressive nature of Isbel’s reply to my commentary. If that were indeed the case, it is of no importance. Surely, it is part of the impetuousness of a social activist that tries to make the world we live in a better place. In this, Isbel Diaz deserves all of our respect and support. Let’s say he took a swing at the mud slung his way and leave it at that.

One thought on “Isbel Díaz and Mud-Slinging

  • Excellent article!

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