By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — Ever since March 20th when the government began to prepare its “Civil Society” on the island, up to the high-level segment of the 8th Summit of the Americas on April 13-14, when the Cuban foreign minister spoke instead of Raul Castro, the entire event and lead up were all our media has been talking about. To death almost.
Cuban TV has continuously repeated the words of the island’s ambassador in Peru, which weren’t diplomatic at all, as he avoided a respectful dialogue with an arrogant and cocky “Don’t stick your nose in Cuba’s business.” And then he protested against the presence of members of the opposition, a clear sign that the official Cuban delegation, which wanted to be “exclusive”, isn’t Cuban civil society at all but government representatives instead.
Another Cuban media star was a hardy leader from the Young Communist League, who always argues the same thing: “that Cubans who didn’t go with them or think like them, aren’t Cubans but mercenaries and terrorists.” Similarly, the energetic head of the official delegation, leading an “openly anti-imperialist platform”, sabotaged the Civil Society event with flags, slogans, posters and insults to non-Communist Cubans and the OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro.
They had to move the Civil Society session to another hall because of such indiscipline, the Cuban delegation being left with some of its followers, the ALBA alliance countries mainly. A different light was shone on these events in Cuba’s media, so much so that it seemed that Almagro and Cubans labeled “mercenaries” had to seek refuge in another room. Images from this part of the summit were never broadcast.
A huge media team had been sent from Cuban TV and yet we have seen very little about the summit. They only repeat fundamentalist events over and over again, showing indiscipline and intolerance which are painted as if they were epic acts.
Although, it’s true that they gave a lot of emphasis to Rosa Maria Paya, without mentioning her name of course so as not to give her any propaganda. They criticized her staying in a 5* hotel, really expensive!, claiming that the US has paid for it.
A photo of Posada Carriles standing next to another dissident present has also been shown as proof that he is also a terrorist. And foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez’s speeches are also repeated where he only talks about the summit for two seconds and then spends the rest of them going on about the Cuba-US dispute, with hardline language, which is a clear sign of current setbacks in the rapprochement process which former president Obama initiated.
Nothing is being said about the meeting Rosa Maria Paya had with the US Vice-President, and we couldn’t even listen to the speeches of several presidents condemning the situation in Venezuela. If anything, the censors only thought a small segment was important for us to see. We found out about the rest of it through our pro-government journalists’ analyses. The Cuban news covered a lot more of the alternative summit where support was shown for the embattled Venezuelan government and the recently imprisoned Lula Da Silva in Brazil. The limited coverage also included any opposition to the US embargo against Cuba and Washington’s latest attack against Syria.
We are living the worst crisis in the past ten years of this government, to whom reforms and an opening policy were naively attributed (many people in and outside of Cuba believed them). It seemed that with the government’s Guidelines, consulting with the people, the rise of the self-employment sector, the rapprochement process with Obama and some rights that we have won bit by bit, that the path was set for Cuba to move forward, to win freedoms and democracy. Today, we are only seeing setbacks, a return to hardline policies and a deadlock.
Repression has been turned up against the opposition, anti-establishment or just critical journalists and artists. Arrests and seizures of equipment are on the rise without a criminal proceeding. State Security also has a free reign to prohibit government critics from exercising their right to travel abroad. The ability to travel is no longer a right but a gift conditioned to an obedient position of loyalty to the government.
Different repressive acts have increased, including a weakening of the private sector, shortages of basic consumer items like food and medicines, further debilitated public transportation and blackouts. Add to those the greater use of the pre-delinquent statute, which has always existed under the “Social Danger Index.”
Surrounded by such a critical and extremist situation, I can’t fully enjoy the green palms around me, the clear waters of the nearby stream, nor the sweet company of my two dear daughters. Although I’m living in the same place where I was born 42 years ago, it seems all too strange. So much time, I’ve lived all that time! Surrounded by authoritarianism and extremism and I still haven’t been able to adapt to it.
I understand a lot better now, having reached the peak of my tolerance, which I believed to be infinite, why so many families are broken, why so many people escaped and even risked their lives. So many good people who decided to never return until something changes.
Sadly, the hegemonic power of our media and its selective and manipulating use for those in power, works extremely well. People complain that they didn’t see anything about the summit in spite of them talking about it all day long. However, they have the idea that Cuban representatives were abused, that they weren’t allowed to speak and that they wanted to put terrorists and mercenaries in their place. That’s what they saw and there’s no room for any other conclusion after such was repeated over and over again.
This was what the Summit of the Americas was for Cubans in Cuba and that’s precisely why official delegations, both Civil and Political, went there: to fight, to sabotage the event and show that “they won’t give in a single inch”. The question is whether they were referring to the US or their own people who are calling for democracy and freedom? The answer to that question was clear for me.