By Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
HAVANA TIMES — Laritza Diversent is the director of CUBALEX, a non-governmental agency that is committed to providing free legal services to Cubans. She is a young professional who speaks softly and has well-defined ideas, such as those that lawyers use when they file a lawsuit.
I saw her in a documentary where she tells us how a mob of Cuban government agents broke down the door of her house, without a legal warrant, where Cubalex is based. They confiscated all kinds of material and they harassed her, her collaborators and family, which would never have been able to happen if a constitutional state existed in Cuba, even in its most primitive form.
Cubalex is working precisely in this direction, trying to find the tiniest cracks in Cuba’s own legislation and international agreements that it upholds, in order to protect the rights of the unprotected.
Laritza has been accused of the following: reporting that gender and domestic violence take place in Cuba, and that there isn’t any preventive framework or punishment for these crimes; denouncing political violence against opposition, and not only the beatings but also by preventing them from accessing basic means of livelihood; that the Cuban government lacks a clear human rights regime, and therefore the national population lives at the mercy of what leaders decide, who haven’t been elected in a competitive, transparent and fair way. Laritza tries to compensate for the enormous gap between an absolute dictatorship and devalued citizens, in a calm and exact manner.
And this is why she has been grossly repressed. It’s been said that she receives outside funding, and that’s true. However, in Cuba, everybody receives financial aid from abroad, as it’s been a long time now since this impoverished nation lost it’s ability to create significant surplus value. And it’s reasonable that an opposition organization – such as Cubalex – receives such funding, because aside from widespread poverty, they are refused legal status, and therefore cannot raise personal funds on the island and its members are stripped of their basic rights which greatly affects their chances of getting a dignified job.
It’s true that they receive money from organizations based in the US and stemming from the US government, none of which gives us any reason to rejoice. However, nobody in Cuba – not the Castro government nor the part of civil society that put on a show of intolerant nationalist puritanism while they feed off of funds from abroad just like the opposition- has the moral epithet to criticize them while the current atmosphere of repression persists.
What strikes me about the Cubalex raid is that it wasn’t the kind of organization that is normally repressed by the Cuban government. The Castros’ dictatorship normally uses their slander and beatings directed against those who took to the street. The limit used to be the public space and that’s why its favorite victims were activists in the east, such as those belonging to the UNPACU, and the Ladies in White etc. To those who prefer other forms of protest which didn’t directly imply invading the public space, the government warned and harassed them, took away certain rights, but with less vigor and not so often. What seems to be happening here is that repression has entered a new phase with greater strength and now includes the private space of their homes.
It’s no coincidence that groups, such as the Convivencia think-tank in Pinar del Rio, Democratic Unity Roundtable civic projects and now Cubalex, are beginning to be repressed in a more hard-line manner. Their activities are interfered with and their activists are intimidated in their homes and kidnapped for several hours without family members and colleagues being notified about their whereabouts. Sometimes, they are beaten and physically abused, something which their jailers or obscene gangs of partisans created by the government are responsible for.
The only good news in all of this is that the Cuban government doesn’t know what to do. They know that their time is coming to an end, that the opposition isn’t stepping down and that the only way they can survive is to quickly pick up the economy and get Cubans thinking with their stomachs.
However, this option seems to be less and less viable in the short-run: mirages of fast oil are becoming more hazy as well as their hopes of forming international alliances that will pay for the mediocrity of Cuban leaders. And all of this makes them think that the only way they have of achieving this is to tie in our battered domestic economy more closely with the US’ economy. Whose opportunities are revealing themselves little by little – like an erotic striptease – but where there will always be cultural and ideological incompatibilities with the monopoly power that the Castro elite aspire to in their bourgeois transformation process.
Raul Castro, 85-year-old who leads the fate of a bankrupt society, wants a lot of peace in order to continue running this business with bits of market and pieces of a bureaucratic and centralist regime that boasts in claiming itself “socialist”. This while opening up the way to restoring capitalism which benefits the elite who have accompanied him on his way to the top.
Just like in China, but I can confidently say with not so much luck – for reasons I can’t go into here. And with the US so close and powerful, like it has been for the last two centuries. And with a young, charismatic and black president which Cuban citizens remember running around a drizzling Havana, umbrella in hand, standing on every platform and saying that the war has ended.
It’s because of all of this that Laritza Diversent, the young lawyer who talks slowly, is being terrorized when she tries to teach Cubans to exercise their meager rights.
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