It is very likely that a – greater or smaller – number of people who oppose the Cuban system have been encouraged by everything that has been happening in Cuba since Sunday July 11th. Some of them may have even been paid off, with the intention of destabilizing the country and provoking a situation of chaos and insecurity. It’s also true that opportunists and regrettable acts of vandalism were also present, which is something that normally happens in these situations.
However, I don’t think either of these facts can detract a pinch of legitimacy from the outcry we have heard. A cry which is also the result of the desperation of a society that has not only been navigating a prolonged economic crisis and an unprecedented health crisis, but also a crisis of confidence and a loss of hope.
The Cuban government shouldn’t be responding to this desperate complaint with its usual slogans, repeated year in and year out, and with a chorus of answers the government wants to hear. Not even with explanations, no matter how convincing or necessary they may be.
The solutions we need are the ones that many citizens are hoping for or demanding; some out on the street, others in posts on social media where they express their disappointment or nonconformity. Many do so after counting the few and devalued pesos they have in their impoverished pockets and many, a great deal of Cubans, lining themselves up outside stores in silent resignation for hours – come rain or shine -, with a pandemic too. Lines at markets to buy food, lines at drugstores to buy medicines, lines to get our daily bread and anything you can imagine and need.
I don’t think anyone with a sense of belonging, a sense of sovereignty or civic responsibility can want (or even think) that the solution to these problems comes from any form of foreign intervention, much less a military intervention, like some people have asked for, which also represents a threat because it is always a possible scenario.
I also believe that any Cuban living on or off the island knows that the US commercial and financial blockade or embargo (whatever you want to call it) is real and has been internationalized and stricter in recent years, and that it is an extremely heavy burden on the Cuban economy (just as it would be for any economy).
Cubans living abroad today that want to help their family during these tough times, have been able to verify just how real the blockade/embargo is when they find themselves with their hands tied behind their backs essentially, as they are unable to send remittances to their loved ones, just to give you one situation that affects so many. By the way (because sometimes people forget this) the blockade is an age-old policy that the entire world has condemned for many years in consecutive United Nations assemblies.
I also don’t believe anyone cany deny that a media campaign has been launched with fake news (in the clumsiest of ways too), which only diminishes the credibility of their managers at the end of the day.
However, in addition to the above, I do believe that Cubans need to recover their hope and have a possible image of what their future can be. If hope is lost, the sense of any humanist social project is lost. Hope is not something that can be recovered by force. It is rescued and nourished with solutions, changes and social conversations. When these don’t come, there have been many disastrous effects.
So many Cubans with itchy feet to emigrate and now the desperate cry of people, which also included paid-off people and opportunistic criminals I’m sure, although I refuse to believe that in this day and age, there are so many people like this, so many people born and raised among us that sell their souls or commit crimes. But if this were the case, it would be the result of the society that has encouraged it.
The spontaneous way a significant number of people protested on Cuban streets and on social media, without any ties to a formal leadership, receiving nothing in exchange or stealing anything along the way, should be a warning and I think it’s an alarming display of the rifts that have opened up between ruling political circles and the street (and even Cuban leaders have recognized this). This is the only way to explain what happened, and more so in a country where people know almost anything they want to know, like we all know.
Force and darkness cannot be solutions to convince and calm down these desperate protestors, such as the digital blackout that kept many people offline but hasn’t stopped those who wanted to say something (whether that’s for or against) from connecting. Also, violence should not be used as a line of argument, especially against the non-violent. Plus, we already know that violence isn’t always physical.
A lot of things seem to be at play for now. Maybe even later, when the calm comes after the storm. Maybe extremists and fundamentalists won’t be able to impose their extremist and fundamentalist solutions, and it won’t be rooted in a dangerous state of hate that has been brewing in recent years.
In any case, solutions are needed, responses that are not only material in nature, but also political, so a better and more inclusive Cuba can deal with the underlying reasons for this cry of desperation and loss of hope which many of our fellow compatriots have been making, in silence, but firmly, since before July 11th. These are the cries that fell on deaf ears and all of this mud came from this rain.
As a Cuban who lives in, works and believes in Cuba, I fully believe it is my right to think and have an opinion about the country I live, work and believe in. I know that times like these and whenever you try to express an opinion, you normally get a “You’re a reactionary for somebody and a Communist to someone else”, like Claudio Sanchez Albornoz once said. I also take on this risk, as a man who wants to be free, and hopes to become freer every day.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times