Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
HAVANA TIMES — By being polarized, the situation around Julian Assange is a perfect opportunity to unleash emotions and close off understanding. This is with good reason when it comes to Cubans, who for half a century have had the perfect opportunity in politics for deploying passions and hearing as little as possible of the views of opponents.
Let me explain. I support what Wikileaks did. I think Assange did us all a favor when he unveiled the tons of cables that revealed the conspiracies and agreements that take place in the dens of world power, particularly (but not exclusively) in American embassies.
He showed how political classes around the world link themselves with these — revealing pressures, threats, hesitancy and corruption of all natures.
For example, I found out about how a US ambassador (a Puerto Rican “businessperson” to the bone) pressured a Dominican president to join in on the condemnation of Cuba in Geneva regarding the issue of human rights, as well as how Dominican ministers ask for better perks from investors, among other political gems.
Given that the United States is the only politically and militarily dominant world power and that its politics affect us all, I’m interested and I have a right to know what is happening – as do the other billions of other people like me who inhabit this planet.
This is especially true when you consider that the US has the unstinting ability to manipulate information, of which one example — among many — was the way George W. Bush lied to the world to justify the invasion of Iraq at that the cost of thousands upon thousands of deaths, including more than a few American troops.
It has been said that Assange’s revelations had serious costs for the American security and espionage apparatus. This is possible, but that’s part of politics. It’s also said that they cost the lives of American agents, something that up until now no one has proven since those who spread the information were particularly careful to avoid such occurrences, while the spies had sufficient time to slip away.
Instead, many revelations by Wikileaks — what come immediately to mind are some videos of civilians being massacred — were used to force the United States to adhere to the highest standards of respect for human rights.
Regarding his bedtime adventures in Sweden, I think there should be a transparent process without any danger of his being extradited [to the USA], and if Assange actually committed any sexual felonies then he should be punished.
But it seems excessive and ridiculous the way in which some purists are arguing about Assange’s alleged sex crimes. I would only ask them for a more thorough review of the facts.
I should explain that I didn’t see Assange drop his zipper with anyone, and I don’t care how many times he has gone to bed with women or how many of them were Swedish. Yet the label of “predator” and rapist seems rather untenable and what is alleged is so controversial and tricky that no doubt is left about the existence of a burlesque plot with dreadful consequences.
It would be too naive to believe that after all this there’s no intention of teaching whistle blowers a good lesson, one whose ultimate consequence could be a person’s extradition to the United States.
I support Wikileaks because I’m democratically minded and everything that contributes to making the world more transparent and gives citizens more control over their lives and the public sphere is positive and I applaud it.
I think there are other perceptions and ways of thinking that also deserve to be taken into account, though I do not share them. Democracy, for example, can be thought of in the manner Schumpeter imagined it (competition between the elite for state power), and if this is so, then Wikileaks, participation and transparency are unnecessary.
But that’s not my idea of democracy — not the kind of democracy I want for my country.
This issue is also explained by often mixing it with some possible double dealings on the part of Ecuadorian President Correa or with the way the Cuban police sometimes haven’t respected diplomatic immunity.
These are different issues whose mixing obscures the results. Doing this in that manner is to do more of the same. This falls into the trap of the same lack of reasoning, the same emotional outbursts, the same political poverty displayed by the Cuban government when it justifies its excesses while arguing that the United States does the same thing.
When Cubans — those of the diaspora and on the island — are placed on this side, they are put in the difficult position of demanding transparency and freedom of information from the Cuban government.
Freedom isn’t a commodity with different prices depending on the market; rather, it is a non-tradable component of the common good. Freedom is, said one communist, freedom for those who think differently.
Asking for freedom of the press and information in Cuba, while condemning Julian Assange for trying to do this on the international level, is an example of the political bipolarity that characterizes the Cuban scenario.
But this is not the only bipolar position. It coexists with another; it feeds into it and it is inseparable from it, as both are embedded in a synergy of mutual feeding. This other position is the praising of Assange as a liberator while turning a blind eye to the curtailment of those freedoms in Cuba.
Given my political position, it seemed appropriate to sign a statement in support of Assange that is being circulated by Mexican professor Ana Esther Cecena. The petition was signed by some Cuban emigrants, most notably by many people on the island.
I know many people among this latter group – renowned intellectuals, some of them, and also admirable people. I noted several close friends on the list and I rejoiced that we are together on this ship. But none of this omits the fact that that none of them have raised their voices in support of those in Cuba who are trying to do what Assange did.
Allow me to give one example. Recently a paper was circulated that was signed by a few hundred of Cubans — both on and off the island — calling for Cuba to adhere to international human rights agreements.
Its supporters on the island suffered punishment, physical and legal abuse, when they tried to explain their ideas to people and attempted to gather signatures of support. They suffered the same harsh repression as hundreds of other Cubans who want a change on the island.
They received the same pushing around, mistreatment and abuse suffered by the Ladies in White. The same treatment the mobs organized by the government dish out to those who think differently and defend their right to say what they think.
I don’t care what the political affiliations are of those who are calling for the signatures or if their visions of the future of the republic do or don’t coincide with mine. I just want them to have rights and those are being denied.
I think that supporting Assange and then turning one’s head when the Ladies in White are pushed around is another act of unpardonable political bipolarity. It is as unforgivable as condemning the lack of freedom of information in Cuba and rejoicing with the way the Assange affair is unfolding.
Let’s hope that Cuba advances into the future without this sort of political tunnel vision that turns us into biased individuals… like confused villagers who predict the end of the world when a little dust falls from the ceiling onto our heads.