HAVANA TIMES – Ever since we first called for the Civic March for Change we knew that it would be a practical impossibility to make it happen. Even so, it was worth it to make them unmask themselves to show their absolutely tyrannical character, above all in a context in which they tried to present themselves as a State of Law/Rights.
Two weeks after 11J [11 July 2021 protests], the judicial organs of the regime held a press conference that is still shocking in its cynicism. The president of the supreme tribunal, in a faltering voice, denied there was a body of opinion which spoke of an avalanche of judicial trials. According to Rubén Remigio Ferro, he only knew of 19 cases involving 59 people. Later it became known that the number of defendants was, scandalously, approaching a thousand.
Another ploy by this man would be to claim that the tribunals operated independently and that they only had to follow the law. Díaz-Canel himself then contradicted this, saying that “in Cuba we don’t work with a separation of powers, but with a unity of powers”. Remigio must have wanted the ground to swallow him up, although for that he’d have needed to have a sense of shame.
The big lie, which definitively pushed us into organising the march, came when we heard him say that “[holding] different opinions, including political opinions different from those which are dominant in the country, did not constitute a crime”. According to the supreme tribunal president, “demonstrating, far from constituting a crime, was a constitutional right”.
From the Archipiélago platform, and along with the Council for the Transition we tried to expose these lies. Many of us have suffered prison for protesting on 11 July. And despite having done so unquestionably peacefully, with the international press as witness, we were thrown in a refuse truck and put behind bars.
The first date we chose was 20 November. It was necessary to make our application formally and well in advance. The world would watch our every move. The first reply from the regime was the most threatening possible: the Armed Forces declared 20 November as a National Day of Defence and announced a militarization of the country for the three preceding days.
We kept our composure. Calmly, we explained that we had no interest in a violent confrontation with the army, so we put forward the date to 15 November. This date was chosen carefully because on that day the country would reopen the airports for international tourism and so they couldn’t use the pandemic as an excuse to prohibit the march.
The regime then resorted to using all the repressive mechanisms at its disposal: the municipal governments, national television, district attorneys and all State Security agents. They interrogated any citizen who dared to “like” our posts and filled social media with pictures of the batons with which they would come out to beat us. They even organised vaccination centres for children along the route we proposed for the march. It was clear that almost no one would dare to come out. And so it was.
If the regime had had a minimal amount of intelligence they would just have put low limits on the numbers of people allowed to join the march, or they’d have designated a route far from public visibility. But they couldn’t do even that. The donkey who reckons to be the head of the dictatorship didn’t want to run any risk. And it remained clear for the whole world to see that the people of Cuba have no means whatever to express a political opinion that might differ from the official line.
The international press followed the story closely and barely anyone in the world had any doubt that the banning of the march showed that we, in trying to organise it were justified in our demands. But the dictatorship has a long history of achieving Pyrrhic victories. So they played the only cards remaining to them: discreditation, character assassination, confusion, sowing of suspicion, generation of division, forcing us into exile, launching a campaign of slander against us.
Sadly, this campaign worked for many Cubans. We still suffer like a messiah in that we’re punished if we’re not seen to be flayed and crucified on a cross. It comes hard for us to realize that before leaders we need citizens. And that to face up to a dictatorship isn’t about being a superhero but it’s about learning, effort, resolve and survival.
A year after these events there’s still a lot for us to reflect upon concerning their true impact. What is beyond question though is that on that day the dictatorship’s masks were torn to pieces.