By Ronal Quiñones
HAVANA TIMES – It’s been more than a month now since the mass protests that took place in Cuba, on July 11th. Some people are wondering what has changed in the country since then, and the answer is not very much. What’s more, the things that have changed are only to cover up the tense sense of calm that Cubans have been living with for over a year.
Yep, because what happened that Sunday was the result of previous events, ever since residents in Havana’s San Isidro neighborhood rose up, or since a group of artists went to protest outside the Ministry of Culture. The historic July 11th protests were a popular uprising, which wasn’t called by anyone in particular, just a handful of gunpowder scattered across pretty much the whole island, in a surprising and shocking way. We’ve been sitting on top of a volcano for months now, and it was going to erupt at any moment.
Outside Cuba, some people want more glorious days like that Sunday, but the brutal repression many protestors fell victim to, especially those who became temporary leaders, has most people sitting in their homes.
So, to the people outside calling for Cubans like me, ordinary Cubans, to take action, I’m asking them to concentrate their efforts on trying to ensure that we can repeat these protests without violence.
How exactly? By applying international pressure, like the world did to overthrow the Apartheid government in South Africa, or to force Pinochet to hold a plebiscite. It was a colossal task that took years, but it’s the only way.
Leaders in this country need to feel alone, censored even by their allies, so that Cubans are granted the freedoms they have by Law. There’s no other way because they won’t leave power voluntarily, and the military option will never come, because nobody would dare.
So, efforts need to doubled down in diplomatic circles. The international Cuban community’s pressure, which is strong and decisive – both in quantitative and qualitative terms – cannot stop. Just don’t wait for more protests that will only bring further beatings and add more martyrs.
The blockade is finally playing its part and hitting the dictators where it hurts them the most, but it’s not enough. Now is the time we have to continue to close in around them, when they have less and less allies, and get to the UN. The UN Commission on Human Rights has to take action and enter Cuba with an inquiry commission, to make sure that every Cuban can express themselves freely.
Of course, the people living off this people’s sweat and backs will try to prevent this at all costs, but international pressure needs to be turned up, just like it has been successful in other parts of the world in the past, and it will be here too if the struggle continues.
Measures adopted by the Biden Administration to sanction Cuban police force members will do no good. These adults, to be polite, have no interest in visiting the US or have foreign bank accounts in their names, they are a lot smarter than that. If you’re going to try and punish them like this, you have to get to their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and anyone who has a blood tie to them. They’d be hurt if they weren’t allowed to travel.
Those of us here will continue to fight with peaceful resistance, and will take to the streets now and again, but this can’t be the means that action abroad moves for. Now is the time for the dictatorship to pay once and for all for pushing them to live in exile, and they will regret having done so sooner or later, because they will be the ones to enforce change.
It’s practically impossible for this change to come from within national borders when it is a matter of unarmed civilians against a totalitarian state that is willing to do anything, like its leader always says.
Trying (because I don’t believe they will manage to do this) to make sure that every Cuban has access to the Internet won’t solve the problem either. Of course, it’s a help, and a great help at that, especially because it will help to open up many people’s eyes, and can also open the world’s eyes thanks to the only weapon the Cuban people have right now: cellphones.
Here, we will continue to document every clash, every disappearance, kidnapping and beating, even though the inept of the hour on the TV News will say that it’s enough to ask for somebody at a Police station or to present a Habeas Corpus petition to know where someone is.
Thanks to the Internet, every one of these lies will be exposed because every mother, sister or wife won’t be afraid of denouncing what has happened to their loved ones, but in order to be heard, everybody needs to feel like they aren’t being threatened, and this will only happen when third parties look out for them and make sure the Law is being upheld.
It’s not gratuitous that this Government has refused time and time again to sign the Human Rights treaties promoted by the UN. By not recognizing its organizations, it does not have the obligation to allow them to enter the country, but the world is applying pressure for this to happen.
International organizations have to mediate, without a single gun, so that Cuban society is able to express itself freely. We live on an island, and this country can’t be self-sufficient, it needs foreign aid. If this aid is eliminated, or the condition of free elections is placed, for example, we could win the battle.
Violence is my enemy, but I won’t shy away from it if need be. The thing is that in a situation like the one we have here, I don’t think it’s advisable, because we can’t compete on a level playing field. No country will intervene with military force in Cuba, let everyone know that, because it’s never happened before in places where thousands of people were being killed, and it won’t happen here.
As a result, we have to win the war with lobbying, diplomacy, but with a firm hand. They have to understand, for better or worse, that the Cuban people want radical change, not just four decrees to give the self-employed some freedoms or more lenient Customs regulations.
We have to continue with our peaceful resistance here, and abroad, people need to be knocking on every door and showing the truth so that nobody is left unaffected. Only international pressure will force change.