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

  • 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,

  • 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.

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

    Contradictions seem to be no problem for this man …

  • Pedro , you stated the nature of the Cuban government exactly .
    It is Leninist in that it insists on government by cadre .
    This prevents the bottom-up democracy that is integral to socialism and which is enshrined in Poder Popular, a unique and autochthonous form of elections .
    That said, were the government not to monitor dissidents and jail those caught breaking Cuban laws prosecuted just as those who fight to overthrow any government in the world are, the U.S State Department, ,CIA , USAID and all the other many other agencies working on behalf of the 50+ year-old U.S War On All The People Of Cuba would have a free hand.
    This is what happened in Chile in 1973 and which was attempted more recently in Venezuela.
    Latin America’s history is replete with U.S. interventions and NOT repeat NOT to install democratic forms .
    In all cases it was to install a dictator and/or prevent a socialist ( read: democratic ) economic forms .
    Moses and Griffin have no more interest in democracy than did Stalin since they both openly and actively support capitalism and the U.S. oligarchy , both of which are antithetical to democracy.
    That parroting of U.S State Department propaganda is a ruse, a deception, a lie and the long sordid U.S foreign policy history in the hemisphere is all the proof any rational person needs to see this as true.
    That long list of anti-democratic U.S interventions can be seen at the Killing Hope website.
    A little history : Back in 1918 when the U.S. and a few European nations invaded the new Soviet Union, it was NOT to install a democracy but to return the pro-Czar ( totalitarian ) Whites to power, erase any vestige of a democratic economy and return the country to totalitarian capitalism.
    That policy has changed little since that time and is clearly echoed in the U.S economic war on Cuba.
    If Moses and Griffin can come up with more than two examples of where the U.S overturned a totalitarian system and installed a democratic one, I am open to correction on this.

  • It is telling that those HT commenters who blindly support the Castro regime are silent on this post. Pedro, sin pena, is an avowed socialist yet presents the intellectual depth to separate totalitarianism from authentic socialist precepts and the courage to highlight those differences. This leaves little space for those who claim to be socialists but when the covers are pulled back on the regime, reveal themselves to be nothing more than totalitarians.

  • Dan, the goal of “regime change” is and was never to force Cuba to set up a constitutional democracy modeled after the US. As stated in the Helms-Burton Act which is the governing federal legislation maintaining the US embargo, the goal of this law id to bring about “a peaceful transition to a representative democracy and market economy in Cuba”: Should Cubans, having said good riddance to the Castros tyranny, decide for themselves that they would prefer a social democracy more in line with the governments of northern Europe, so be it.

  • Great idea. An open society, a big tent where everyone’s opinion is welcome. Certainly the United States will stand back, not interfere in this hoped for dialogue about Cuba’s future, and allow the Cuban people to make their decisions based on the merits of those arguments, as opposed to its decades long history of trying to engineer regime change. And why shouldn’t this underdeveloped island of 11 million go first ? After all, to quote one frequent HT commenter, what is the Cuban government afraid of ? Don’t they know that the cold war is over, that we won and that history has ended ? That is why, I guess, that the United States is completely justified in making anyone they deem a communist inadmissible and ineligible for a Greencard. Or if you are an LPR who has already gotten a taste of American capitalism which you find disagreeable, and you later decide to become a “communist” you will be prohibited from naturalizing. We have legitimate national security concerns that require these limits on what people are allowed to think and do and hear. Cuba does not, I guess.

  • Cuba: With Open Voices

    “This book is a collection of articles written by a group of Cuban journalists. Each story opens a window on the changes and contradictions of life in Cuba, and each represents one step in the journalist’s quest to report ethically and professionally and pursue freedom of expression.

    Reporters in Cuba face steep challenges. They may be subject to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and assault designed to curb the free flow of information. However, as these stories suggest, tenacity can overcome adversity.

    Este libro es una colección de noticias de un grupo de periodistas cubanos que culminaron un proceso de formación en los estándares internacionales del periodismo. Cada texto abre una ventana para desvelar las contradicciones de los cambios en que está inmersa la sociedad cubana. Cada noticia es una búsqueda permanente por cumplir responsablemente con la labor informativa y una reivindicación del ejercicio pleno de la libertad de expresión con ética y profesionalismo.

    La actividad periodística debe enfrentarse a duros retos. Detenciones arbitrarias, encarcelamientos, golpizas… son algunos intentos por detener el ímpetu informativo. Sin embargo, como se muestra aquí, la persistencia de los periodistas sobresale ante cualquier adversidad.”

    Download the pdf in English and/or Spanish.

  • Pedro: the fact the Cuban regime feels it needs to repress dissidents violently and the fact that the regime does not allow free and fair elections is indeed “a tacit acknowledgement of their political defeat.”
    Otherwise free and fair elections, multiparty democracy and freedom of expression would be allowed.

  • Pedro has correctly identified the fruitlessness of the Castros current acts of repression. His is fully incorrect however when he assumes that the US “craves” annexing Cuba. Americans could not care less about Cuba. Cuba has no significant natural resources, no discovered oil, and low yield agricultural production. While highly-educated, Cuban workers are unaccustomed to hard work and present a low productivity profile. Both India and China remain Corporate America’s first choices for cheap offshore labor. As a poor country, Cuba is a weak consumer market for American goods and services. US interest in Cuba is geo-political. A free and democratic Cuba helps to stabilize Latin America. A stable and democratic Latin America is good for US business.

  • Q: “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.”

    A: Power.

    That is why Raul & his brother have done everything they have done: to grab onto power and never let go. Brute force is how they gained power, it’s how they eliminated all their rivals and it’s what they will continue to do for as long as they can. Power.

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