The Needless, Counterproductive Repression of Cuban Dissidents

By Pedro Campos

Havana Photo: Juan Suarez
Havana Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — There have been numerous reports about the repressive measures the Cuban government and its security apparatus took against dissidents who had planned a peaceful celebration of the 65th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this past December 10.

Apparently, anywhere from one to two hundred people around the country were victims of reprisals. Photographs and video testimonies of these events are available in different Internet sites.

The government isn’t denying these incidents, so we can assume they actually took place.

I was a Cuban government official and worked as a diplomat in Geneva at the end of the 1980s, specializing in the area of human rights. These events cause me great pain.

I do not support the political platform of Cuban dissidents, but I defend their right to express their opinions peacefully – as such, I am of course opposed to these acts of repression, which I consider in violation of the human rights of these citizens.

I am going to pose a series of questions to President Raul Castro, the members of the Politburo, the generals of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and Ministry of the Interior (MININT), those who directly participated in these repressive acts and to share some general opinions about these events.

What does the Cuban government achieve by breaking into people’s homes, imprisoning, kidnapping and even beating people who sought to celebrate Human Rights Day peacefully in Cuba? What benefit is derived and what good does it do its international credibility.

I believe it could have gained a lot more had it allowed these peaceful celebrations to take place.

Old Havana photo: Juan Suarez
Old Havana photo: Juan Suarez

What is the government afraid of? That a few hundred people talking, listening to music and perhaps yelling anti-government slogans are capable of mobilizing thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, who will support them and overthrow the government in a massive, popular uprising? If that were the case, it would be a tacit acknowledgement of their political defeat.

Doesn’t the Cuban government realize that, in the age of the Internet and smart-phones, when it’s no longer possible to keep such incidents from being divulged around the world, its repressive actions serve only to bolster the national and international prestige of these dissidents?

Should the slogan “the streets belong to revolutionaries” be made a reality by securing massive support from the people through popular measures, or by cleaning the streets of dissidents through violent means?

I sincerely believe that the Cuban leadership, still imbued with the spirit of the Cold War, Stalinism and military authoritarianism, blinded by its own inability to pull the country out of its crisis and its desire to remain in power at all costs, is unable to reason and see all of the absurd things it is doing at all levels – economic, political and social.

After 7 years of a “new” administration, its measures still haven’t reached the tables of workers and industry, agriculture and transportation are still in crisis. The country still has two currencies, prices continue to go up and real salaries continue to be lowered.

Instead of the country’s needed democratization and of increased participation by the people in the affairs that concern them, we see repressive strategies. The economic “adjustment” policies, which rather resemble neo-liberal shock-therapy measures, do not even envisage compensation for the least privileged sectors of society (pensioners, single mothers and children of poor families), while the country’s educational and healthcare systems rapidly deteriorate.

None of these serious problems society faces can be solved through repressive measures (which actually only make the problems worse). To use brute force against the population is to dig one’s own grave. I have addressed this issue elsewhere. I don’t pretend to give anyone any advice. Everyone is responsible for their own actions. I am only assessing the facts.

These repressive actions are, therefore, both unnecessary and counterproductive.

Havana photo: Juan Suarez
Havana photo: Juan Suarez

The socialist and democratic left has presented (neglected) proposals for all areas of society that could help save the best of the revolutionary process and guarantee that neither imperialism nor the traditional Cuban far-right can take control of the country in the future.

With all of its different actions – particularly the repressive ones – the Cuban government is paving the road towards a return to the worst of the past, to a world in which no Cuban, no Latin American will ever want to hear the word “socialism” again and to a new form of real or virtual annexation by the United States, which both scorns and craves Cuba.

This is why it is so strategically important for today’s progressive and socialist movement to continue to demonstrate that this ultra-centralized and anti-democratic “State socialism” has been a fake, so much because of its methods as for its concrete practices.

True, post-Stalinist, democratic, participative, self-management socialism is slowly but surely gaining ground among the many free workers around the world who begin to break ties with exploitative capital – both private or State – and force it to share political and economic power or perish.

Cuba’s State-monopoly capitalism, disguised as socialism, is in crisis and disintegrating. It can either rot and give way to barbarism, to a wild form of hyper-exploitative capitalism steered by a neo-fascist regime, or start clearing the way for the full democratization of society and, as such, for the true socialization of the economy.

It all depends on Cubans of good will, both in Cuba and abroad, in support or against the government.

The last thing one loses, as they say, is hope.

Pedro Campos: [email protected]

11 thoughts on “The Needless, Counterproductive Repression of Cuban Dissidents

  • January 13, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    In the U.S which, I presume , you are using as the model , multi-party democracy is a sham.
    The candidates of both of the twin parties of capitalism: the Democrats and the Republicans are preselected based upon their obedience to the very wealthy who legally bribe them via “campaign contributions” which puts every one of those bribed in the pockets of the wealthy and it is those wealthy whose interests are served regardless of which party’s candidates win .
    It is an unelected dictatorship of money and any candidate who would buck that system never gets the nomination of either party or rises to the height within either party necessary to be considered in the first place. .
    Oh sure , you get to say anything you want in the U.S but you can’t change the government there anymore than the Cubans can theirs
    Democracy means rule of the people or in practical terms, majority rule which does not exist in Cuba nor in the USA .
    You need to pick better examples to define democracy,

  • January 13, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Please define socialism for me and as defined in any institution of higher learning in the U.S . and around the world.
    If you understand socialism to be the Leninist ( cadre -led) or Stalinist ( totalitarian ) STATE economies that existed in the Soviet Union, China and still exist in Cuba, you’re dealing from ignorance of the philosophy .
    It like describing fornication as chastity.

  • December 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    ” This prevents the bottom-up democracy that is integral to socialism … ”

    Contradictions seem to be no problem for this man …

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