By Carlyle MacDuff
HAVANA TIMES – Those Cubans who sought permission to hold demonstrations initially on November 20th 2021 in towns and cities across Cuba, gave four reasons for doing so. They were: the release of political prisoners, the end of violence, respect for Cubans rights and solving problems by democratic and peaceful channels. The reaction of the government was to declare that same date as National Defense Day. In response, the organizers changed the date for the demonstrations to November 15.
The expressed views of President Miguel Diaz-Canel to the demonstrations held on July 11th in many communities included describing the demonstrators as provocative counterrevolutionaries, destabilizing law and order, demonstrating hate, vengeance and violence and “promoting views counter to the Ideas of Fidel”. Unprepared, his immediate reaction was to order MININT State Police, some in civilian clothing and ”revolutionaries” onto the streets to attack, beat and arrest hundreds of citizens. ETECSA shut down cell-phone services and the Internet and road traffic stopped.
It is beyond question that the communist government was surprised and severely shaken, subsequently suggesting that the protests were a consequence of the actions of the US through the CIA infiltrating, inciting and funding insurrection. It is also beyond question that there has been internal study within MININT, of why the CDR system failed to give warning. This time however, the government has had ample time to plan its actions on November 15th.
Twentieth century history includes many previous attempts by those oppressed by communism, to protest and endeavor to gain freedom. It would be folly to imagine that the communist government of Cuba has not reviewed those endeavors and planned its own way to counteract and punish any similar endeavors in Cuba. Studies will have especially considered Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.
During the late summer of 1956, dissent in Hungary led by students, brought huge crowds onto the streets threatening to become an insurrection. The reaction by the Soviets was for the Russian tanks to roll in along with troops and to ruthlessly suppress.
In August 1968, there was an uprising in Prague, capital of Czechoslovakia, later described as the “Prague Spring”, which rapidly gained strength and was led by Alexander Dubcek, who twenty years later, following the implosion of the USSR, became President. By that time, the Warsaw Pact had been formed, and there was a Soviet invasion with tanks and troops which mercilessly re-established communist control.
Fidel Castro as President of Cuba, commented upon the new regulations introduced by Dubcek, saying:
“Certain measures were taken such as the establishment of a bourgeois form of freedom of the press. This means the counterrevolution and the exploiters, the very enemies of socialism, were granted the right to speak and write freely against socialism.”
Communist opposition to freedom of speech, with the imposition of censorship and State control of all forms of media forms a key role in establishing and maintaining Cuba’s dictatorship. That was clarified much earlier by ‘Che’ Guevara when he wrote:
“We must do away with all newspapers. A revolution cannot be accomplished with freedom of the press.”
Poland having knowledge of the failed endeavors in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, developed a more subtle means of resisting communist repression and control, having an ally of international magnitude in Pope John Paul, who was himself Polish. He first visited his country of birth as Pope, in June 1979 and met with Lech Walesa who then in August 1980 formed an independent shipyard workers union named Solidarity at Gdansk. Then in 1983, Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, gaining world reputation, and Pope John Paul made a second visit that year. In July 1985, Solidarity then went on a prolonged strike. In 1987 Pope John Paul made his third visit and the rot of communism was well underway. Walesa was like Dubcek, to become President of his country when it cast off the communist yoke.
The Castros learned from the experiences of others, adopting ideas which they regarded as successful. Examples include the Committee for Defense of the Revolution (CDR) which is modelled upon the East Germany’s Stasi, and rejecting the concept of independent labor unions. In Cuba workers all belong to the Central Union of Cuban Workers (CTC), the General Secretary being Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, coincidentally a member of the Political Bureau of the PCC and a Deputy in the Poder Popular.
Nacimiento is to be seen at all meetings of political significance in Cuba, usually sitting central in the front row of the audience and easily recognizable with his pudgy cheeks. In his parlance, the word solidarity means compliance. It is the CTC that organizes the “demonstrations” in favor of the revolution, including bringing in busloads of workers to the May Day parade in Revolution Square and providing all the flags and banners.
Security is always controlled by the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) which controls the State Police, including those who pose as civilians in plain clothes and to which the CDR reports to: “who lives on every block, what they do on every block, in what activities are they involved and with whom they meet.” As mentioned earlier, it was a combination of MININT and members of the CTC loyal to the revolution, that were involved in instigating the violence demonstrated at the urging of Diaz-Canel on the streets of Cuba on July 11 and viewed internationally.
Protestors in Cuba or elsewhere, need not to expect the current Pope to encourage cries for freedom from communism. His coat is cut from an entirely different cloth than that of Pope John Paul. He has visited Cuba twice, the first time to carry out a normal Papal visit including going to Santiago, and to visit the ex-communicated and aging Fidel Castro at Siboney. On the second occasion he met with Raul Castro and the Russian Orthodox Patriach of Moscow, perhaps best known for his wardrobe of fancy hats. Meeting with dissidents – those similar to Lech Walesa, is not his norm. Diaz-Canel need not fear his intervention.
So, what steps can be expected from Raul Castro’s successor (although Raul still lurks in the background)? Initial endeavors as illustrated by the introduction of National Defense Day, will be to intimidate. An increase in police presence, visits to those who signed the requests to demonstrate with perhaps longer sentences given to those imprisoned following July 11th. The objective being to reduce numbers demonstrating and minimize international observation and commentary. That in turn will demand any foreign reporters being both warned and confined to their hotels.
However, there is obvious determination afoot and some may refuse to be intimidated and accept that they may well be jailed and separated from their families. Few Cubans are not aware of Villa Marista and that few who are accused do not confess following entry. MININT goons are not trained to be sympathetic.
It can be anticipated that ETECSA will shut down cell-phone services and the Internet – perhaps as early as 8.00 a.m. and it is possible that well-armed military presence will appear. Street layouts will have been studied. The Diaz-Canel government will be certain to ensure that they have far greater strength than the demonstrators but will also try to confine weapons to non-lethal ones – they want to avoid creating martyrs, being aware of international opinion and concerned about tourism revenues.
If despite all the government endeavors to prevent them, demonstrations occur, the MININT goons in both uniform and civilian clothing will have a heavy presence along with loyal CTC “revolutionaries” suitably clad and armed with staffs. There is a possibility that a couple of worn-out Police Lada cars will be sacrificed as torches, to be credited to the violence of the demonstrators along with a few shop windows – staffs have more than one purpose.
Whatever takes place, Diaz-Canel, must and will appear to be in complete control.
The world may expect on November 16th, that the US in the form of the CIA in particular, but also certain news media, including the BBC, CNN, the Spanish EFE and the French France Presse will be accused of incitement and perhaps banned. All imagination? One can hope so. Time only will tell.