‘No’ in Cuba

Yusimi Rodriguez

no1HAVANA TIMES — The movie “No, by the Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain, is circulating in Havana these days from USB flash drive to flash drive, as well as being screened in alternative venues. It’s not a censored film, in fact it was recognized at the last Havana International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, winning the first place Coral Award as the Best Feature Film.

Its theme: The referendum that removed the dictator Augusto Pinochet from power in Chile.

After reading an obscure bit of Cold War pulp fiction titled The New Class (1957), by Miroslav Djilas, it occurred to me that the end objective doesn’t validate the means. Too many violations of rights and freedoms have been justified under the phrase “the end justifies the means.”

As Djilas said, “Nothing better demonstrates the rightfulness of a goal than the means used to achieve it.”

“No” seems to prove otherwise. It wasn’t enough that Chileans knew about the people who disappeared and were tortured under the Pinochet government for them to say “no” to its continuance in power.

no2Truth is like food, no one eats it raw, nor is it enough for it to be well cooked – it should also be attractive to the eye. There’s no difference between one brand of soda, a microwave and democracy. Voting is buying.

You vote for the product they you sell. The victory of “no” was defined by fifteen minute spots on Chilean TV screens, using advertising mechanisms.

Lessons of “No”

There are no dictators without followers, a good number of them in Pinochet’s case. The “no” position won by only a little more than fifty percent. I remember a Chilean woman who I saw on TV here when I was eleven or twelve, perhaps during the referendum period. She shouted: “Pinochet’s good because he saved us from communism.”

Second, even dictatorships bring benefits. Chile achieved a high rate of economic prosperity under the Pinochet government. That was the main argument of the “yes” campaign during the consultation. Communism was associated with poverty.

Pinochet saved them, but at what price? What price was that woman willing to pay to be saved from communism, or rather, what price was she willing for others to pay?

No_(2012_film)What price are we willing to pay to be saved from “savage capitalism”?

I’m not trying to speak between the lines or attempting to draw analogies between the dictatorship of Pinochet and the Cuban regime.

In Cuba, as far as I know (according to official information sources), no one has disappeared or been tortured, but nor is there economic prosperity.

If there are similarities between the dictatorship of Pinochet and the Cuban regime these are in “lessor things” – like the lack of freedom of the press, speech or association – in other words, in the lack of democracy.

Third: It’s not enough to overthrow a dictatorship or establish democracy (if democracy exists) for social justice to flourish for everyone. Chileans still have reasons to complain, and now they can do just that … without disappearing.

Fourth – the most important: You can overthrow a dictatorship without violence.



6 thoughts on “‘No’ in Cuba

  • And you are a perfect candidate for a ‘Stupid White American’ who knows crap about politics, history, or philosophy.

    According to Alexander Hamilton, one of the ‘Founding Fathers’ of liberal democracy, the people are a “great beast’ to be tamed, and should not consider the revolutionary principles to be taken too seriously. For them, the people must not be represented by ‘one of them’, but by ‘responsible men’ of the upper classes.

  • And your definition of torture is pretty broad. Torture in Cuba happens yes. At Guantanamo Base.

    Just ask any of victim of the puppet US-backed military dictatorships in Latin America what’s like to be stripped naked, fingers pulled and given electrical discharges, having your breasts cut off or being anal-raped with a broom. Or what a ‘pau-de-arara’ means.

  • Great. But your definition of “torture” is pretty narrow. Every person that has been, while on arbitrary detention, stripped from his/her clothes, held indefinitely without control over his/her sensory experience is by definition being tortured. A good example is when they put you in Villa Marista and give you breakfast at 4pm and lunch at 12midnight while they keep you in a room with no windows and you have no clue for how long you have been there or what hour of the day it is. They mess up with you sensory experience before they take u for interrogation. And don’t tell me this doesn’t happen because I myself lived through it, so yes, torture does happen although not as generalized and violent as during the first 5 years of the Pinochet regime.

  • Mishkamo, you are a perfect candidate to lead the Illuminati secret society. Your suggestions about how liberal democracies work smell like Conspiracy Theories to me. It reminds me of Kurt Cobain saying: “Just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

  • Good point Mr Young. In ancient Greece, the debate over various political systems raged, and at one point Plato or Socrates [I forget which] declared that if one chooses democracy, one must be forever vigilant and moreover informed because nefarious usurpers will always be waiting in halls of power. Unfortunately, in most Western ‘democracies’ the common citizen has no idea or interest in the issues on the “table”. The corporate press leads the masses by the nose and make them believe they are “free” and “democratic” while on the ground, events indicate otherwise.And with 17 secret agencies in America alone, who but the “chosen” know the truth or have “power”?

  • As is the case with many critics, you seem to be broadening the definition of democracy. Press freedom is not the same thing as democracy.

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