The Dayron Robles Saga and Cuban Intransigence

José Jasán Nieves Cárdenas (Progreso Weekly)

Dayron Robles
Dayron Robles

HAVANA TIMES — There’s a story in Cuba that in recent months has become a long telenovela. It has everything: jealousy, accusations, joys, deceit – and doesn’t seem to run out of energy.

The episodes in the saga of Dayron Robles [former Olympic champion in the 110-meter hurdles] and his longstanding dispute with the Cuban Athletics Federation have filled enough printed pages and on-air TV time than necessary. But, like the dinosaur, they’re still there.

The latest installments showed the Olympic champion training again on Caribbean turf, under his trainer, Santiago Antúnez, fully believing that he would compete again for the national colors.

Then, the athletics commissioner stepped in. “Neither Dayron nor his trainer are authorized to take part in official competitions in Cuba or abroad as our representatives,” he said.

Roll the credits, until the next episode.

After the publication of the news, the debate began again. To some, the simulation and the attempt to compete for another country definitely disqualify the native of Guantanamo [Cuba’s easternmost province] as a member of official delegations to competitive events, while others believe that “a reconciliation” is necessary.

“After all,” they say, “beginning in January 2014, athletes will be able to leave and keep most of the prize money, so, at the end of this dispute both parties will come out ahead.”

In both perspectives, beyond the issue of athletics, is one of Cuba’s biggest dichotomies: intransigence or realism as attitudes to deal with political, economic and social crossroads.

For many years, our schools have taught the “value” of intransigence as an indispensable condition for a good revolutionary. At an elementary school in Cienfuegos, the emulative system rewards the child who is most intransigent and combative with the highest distinction among his classmates.

The environment of resistance to aggression and constant siege has characterized the Cuban political system in the past 50 years. In the face of survival, not to give in has been a form of victory among the supporters of socialism, even if the victory achieved is only the satisfaction of not giving in.

But this same attitude, which is pertinent in the face of extreme circumstances, knows no limits and seeps into every sphere of social life. It is applied equally to the appearance of an informal space of young rockers and to the powerful act of saying “no” if the boss told you to say “no.”

In the face of every individual “insubordination,” every step “not consulted” that expects no authorization to seek a personal goal, the official dignity of not giving in a response conveys another image of intransigence. And the synonyms of that word leave no doubt of its meaning: obstinacy, hardheadedness, intolerance and recalcitrance.

Does Cuba need to become obstinate to solve its problems? Can we afford to reject other points of view only because they didn’t emerge from our way of thinking?

The acceptance of differences and the overcoming of disagreements, when they lead to the common good, are necessary realities in the nation’s policies, either economic or athletic. Because the ability to clear conflicts also serves to clear hurdles.

José Jasan Nieves Cárdenas is a Cuban journalist who works at Radio Ciudad del Mar, a radio station in the city of Cienfuegos.