By Ronal Quiñones
HAVANA TIMES – It was already common knowledge that the announced march had all the trappings to fail in Cuba, but it had to be done. Yunior Garcia, leader of the Archipielago movement, wished to appeal to Cubans’ highest degree of civic-mindedness and attempt to carry out something that’s normal in most countries of the world. He did this precisely so that everyone could realize that Cuba isn’t normal.
When all the signs convinced him that his noble intentions were going to be thwarted and that he’d be blamed for any outrage, he then decided to march alone on November 14, one day before the great march he’d dreamed of.
It was a masterstroke, because he demonstrated that his interest was absolutely peaceful, since no one else would take part. Not only that, but he totally unmasked a dictatorship that is terrified of him, a simple citizen marching down its streets holding nothing but a white rose.
In the last few hours, Yunior’s neighbors have denounced that in his neighborhood of La Coronela, outside Havana, ill-intentioned people were spreading rumors that the young man was planning to attack a day-care center and a primary school. Something so ridiculous that it could only be the product of a sick mind, and it clearly reveals the Cuban government’s level of desperation, and the fact that it’s willing to do anything.
They tried to stain the honorable image of a civic-minded Cuban, but his statements on all the days before are there to see: model discourses on pacifism and good behavior. They bear no relation at all to how the official media tried to present them, smearing the march as “supposedly pacifist”, although it never aimed to be anything else.
This November 15, all the known opposition figures, and others they considered “dangerous”, were forced to remain in their homes and were blocked from going out on the streets to attend the call for “15-N”.
The areas around these peoples’ homes filled with uniformed police, plainclothes members of the State Security, and the so-called “Rapid Response Brigades” – state workers recruited to repress any demonstrations against the regime.
The regime’s terror of any repeat of the images from July 11th – when thousands of Cubans unexpectedly took to the streets to ask for a change in the system on the Cuban island – was extreme. It was reflected in another wave of arrests and intimidation, firings, and shameful “acts of repudiation”, in which, without even knowing who they’re vilifying, citizens attack the very people who want to free them from this tyranny.
The few dissidents who managed to get out onto the streets were arrested. Among them were Manuel Cuesta Morua; Berta Soler of the Ladies in White; Angel Moya; and art historian Carolina Barrera, to mention those most prominent. The police also made it impossible for the most visible independent journalists, like Yoani Sanchez or Camila Acosta, to report.
One member of the San Isidro group, journalist Ileana Hernandez, managed to evade the police blockade. She had left her home days earlier because she knew they’d never let her leave on the 15th. Others, like Saily Gonzalez, an Archipielago member based in Santa Clara in central Cuba, couldn’t get out.
Nonetheless, she declared that if not on the 15th she’d do so in the coming days, when the mobs outside her house have gone away.
And that must be the message: IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT DATE. Whenever it’s possible, every day, go out on the street dressed in white, be it at three in the afternoon or at ten in the morning. The repressors will never know when or where they’ll see the protestors, and when they least expect it, they’ll be surrounded in white.
Hanging white sheets from the windows and balconies or applauding from your home at three in the afternoon, is another way of expressing popular discontent from the comfort of your home.
As was inevitable, many artists, intellectuals, musicians and even former government sympathizers have criticized the violence unleashed against the demonstrators or have shown public support for the Archpielago group.
Among them is singer-songwriter Pablo Milanes, who on Monday posted a message of support for Yunior. Musician Roberto Carcasses and rapper Etian “Brebaje man”, both Cuban residents, joined in with that position.
The declaration of the Conference of Cuban Catholic Bishops days previous was also an important encouragement for the march, by calling for non-violence, even though it was clear that the dictatorship would not be dissuaded.
In Miami, a group of Cuban exiles tried to board a charter flight to get to Havana this Monday, but the dictatorship denied them permission to land. Others fared worse, when without any intentions of protesting, they bought tickets to fly to Cuba on Monday, simply to visit their family members. These people were taken off their planes because these were likewise denied permission to fly.
Despite all this, in dozens of cities all over the world, exiled Cubans went out to march. Some faced sieges from mobs of sympathizers of the “Revolution”, sent out by the embassies in their respective countries.
Inside the island, the march didn’t take place. I repeat – this was to be expected. Still, it was necessary to follow the established channels, so that there’d be no justification whatsoever, and the whole world would know the truth: IN CUBA, NO ONE CAN DEMONSTRATE AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT.
It’s not a problem of the Constitution, because the same article they used against the request – one that indicates that individual rights are respected as long as they don’t clash with the rights of others – can be applied the other way around. Or, don’t Yunior and the others have these same rights?
In a parallel way, dozens of young people took over the Central Park to keep the others from laying flowers on the monument to [Cuban national hero] Jose Marti. So, it seems that some can, but others can’t. Fidel Castro already said 60 years ago: “Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing.” However, even though they want to present this as a defeat for the opposition, it’s not so at all. With his masterstroke, Yunior has unmasked them all.