Luis Manuel Otero & Tekashi69, Two Ways of Feeling Cuba

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara performing The Flag Belongs to Everyone.

Both have used the Cuban flag in daily affairs, each one assigning it a meaning, each one with different consequences.

By Francisco Acevedo

HAVANA TIMES – The possibility opposition leader Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara might leave Cuba has been pretty much what everyone – who doesn’t only watch the government’s National TV News-, has been talking about this week.

The country’s most famous political prisoner seems to have hit rock bottom in physical and spiritual terms, after years of enduring all kinds of torture, and he’s decided it might be better for him to leave the country that gave him birth and perhaps continue his struggle elsewhere after seeing his life escape from him and be muted in a dark prison cell.

Once again, lots of people in the exile community are criticizing those who (they believe) are giving up their fight, but I repeat, it’s a lot easier from their position to reproach someone who doesn’t want to risk their life because they prefer to leave the country rather than continue being locked away in prison.

This has been the Cuban Government’s strategy against every opposition member, famous or not, and the vast majority have chosen to get a visa.

In this particular case, a young man has endured seven years of arrests, hunger strikes, beatings and psychological abuse, and has become a symbol for leading the San Isidro Movement, which brought many anti-establishment artists together and put President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s regime in a check.

He played a key role in the organization of the protest outside the Ministry of Culture in November 2020, which also shook the nation, but resulted in nothing in terms of concrete breakthroughs for freedom in Cuba.

It was these calls of attention in the Cuban people’s consciousness that led to the famous July 11, 2021 protests. Later in Yunior Garcia’s case, who left in exile, and we haven’t heard much of his voice ever since then, unfortunately.

I don’t think this will happen in the future in Otero Alcantara’s case, because his struggle has been a lot more head-on and direct, and he has suffered the brunt of the repressive apparatus, created by Fidel Castro, in the flesh.

State Security would prefer “to get him off their backs”, sending him abroad, where they believe his message won’t have an impact on the Cuban people, which I disagree with, because jail is where he’ll never have a message.

His personal sacrifice has been more than enough for him to now think a little more about his future than in the future of his Homeland, where he was locked up in a psychiatric hospital as if he’d lost his mind for going against the regime.

The blackmail and harassment he’s suffered recently in Guanajay prison, where he’s been serving his five-year sentence under the charges of indecent assault of patriotic symbols, contempt and public disorder have ended up eating away at the body of someone who was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, which the Cuban Government doesn’t officially recognize.

We don’t know where exactly Otero Alcantara will continue his life, but after months of much-needed recovery, I’m sure he’ll go back to being a pain in the neck for his repressors.

Tekashi69 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba

Tekashi69 back on the stage

The famous rapper Tekashi69, who captivated the media with images of that spectacle where he threw dollar bills from his hotel balcony, even though both he and the Cuban authorities have denied this.

Anyone who doubted the veracity of this story should clear any trace of doubt from their minds after discovering that the controversial musician did so publicly in Pinar del Rio, although a little more organized.

The important thing  is now that he finally spoke about Cuba, when he didn’t utter a word about this here on the island or once he retuned to the US. The fuss that ensued after his usual behavior, which even many Communists criticized despite everyone knowing the highest-ranking PCC leaders tolerated it, was much greater than his visit to Cuba and his importance.

It turns out the visitor gave a couple of statements and then trying to get into the regime’s good books, he said he doesn’t like poltiics because he’ll get in trouble and he wants to return to Cuba. He mentioned leaked footage from a recording in a popular neighborhood in Pinar del Rio that went viral on social media.

The neighborhood – which was also called Cuba libre, interestingly enough, was also hit by recent hurricanes and the images speak for themselves, more than words, because it wasn’t a happy ending.

While Tekashi69 has no reason to know about the reality of Cuba in detail, the people who took him there do though, and I’m sure they’d made a comment off-the-books to him, that’s why his complicit silence has been interesting, he really doesn’t have anything to lose apart from another Safari show in the Caribbean.

Using other people’s poverty to try and clean your conscience, but not to complain about how and why it exists, is a little hypocritical.

Cuba didn’t benefit in any way from similar actions by Rihanna and other celebrities who didn’t do much more than take a few selfies.

Luis Manuel Otero and Tekashi69, two very different perspectives on the same country. By the way, both have used the Cuban flag in daily affairs, each one assigning it a meaning, each one with different consequences. The rapper continues to travel; Luis Manuel is still in a prison on the island.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

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