By Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
HAVANA TIMES – Being politically correct today is saying that you reject violence. For example, it’s saying that it’s great that people protest as long as there is no violence.
This is what Leonardo Padura said when he was dismayed by “… the violent response, especially against the non-violent. Or, like singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez’s recent words from his rocking chair, asking for mercy for those who protested as long as they didn’t commit violent acts, that is. As Silvio is well-known for his fire-resistant fussing’s with the Cuban dictatorship, his words appeared – and were praised – in every news media that knows Cuba exist.
Truth be told though, Silvio Rodriguez hasn’t said anything new compared to what he’s been saying since the times he was able to captivate the imagination of an entire generation, who believed that we really were watching a heartbreak, and he became a spokesperson for sad causes.
Like in those tragic days back in 2003 when he supported the express executions of the three young black men who tried to hijack the Havana-Regla ferry. Silvio Rodriguez is minimizing the violence of July 11th to some acts perpetrated by protestors and thus directly connecting the protests to violent acts in the process.
Let’s take a look at this, head-on. It’s unfortunate that there were violent acts perpetrated by protestors; but this always happens when there are massive public demonstrations, and it obviously doesn’t detract anything away from the meaning of these protests.
We must admit that Silvio Rodriguez isn’t doing that. He’s doing something else instead: he’s only looking at the violence in one place. If we allow ourselves to condemn the “subversive”, then we have to start off by condemning the police and the criminal groups that support them.
Let me say it again, we must condemn the brutal physical violence that has been systematically inflicted upon opposition members and protestors: house arrests, kidnappings, beatings with sticks, physical and psychological torture, arbitrary arrests, all kinds of abuse orchestrated by a dictatorial regime where the Law is only an intention, in the best of cases.
However, violence is not only physical. Ordinary Cubans have been suffering structural violence for decades, which stops them from living decent lives in their birthplace and forces them to seek a dignified life beyond its borders. It condemns them to a dehydrating everyday poverty, to face a surge in COVID-19 infections which is nourished by the government’s ineptness, and a lack of an opportunity to not only protest, but also to ask questions in an opaque, repressive and incompetent state.
These Cubans must face another symbolic violence that has labeled them worms, scum, lumpens, fifth columnists, as well as other slurs, whenever they have wanted to express their disagreement. By extension, they are transformed into disposable beings that can be repressed without remorse.
For example, I have before me an article published in the Communist Party’s Granma newspaper written by a loquacious journalist by the name of Elson Concepcion Perez, entitled “The opposition”, and it reads:
“They call those who break store windows and doors and steal products “the opposition”, they also call the “opposition” those who destroy cars (state-owned and private), who insult and assault a police officer, to name a few acts, violating the law and order and challenging national stability and citizen safety.”
When Mr. Perez reproduces the government’s aggressive discourse against those who dissent, he is practicing a symbolic and brutal violence against those people who only want to exercise a pretty natural right: the right to protest. In the meanwhile, he’s contributing to the justification of the direct physical repression hundreds of people have suffered in recent days, that can also be manifested now in serious criminal trials without due process.
Therefore, it’s worth asking Silvio Rodriguez if his disapproval of the violent includes Mr. Perez, the police and president Diaz-Canel, or whether it only refers to those who had the bad idea of turning over the car of the party secretary in Cardenas.