Something in Common

What has cost others in the political world millions and years of publicity, has been accomplished by Cuban State Security with an arbitrary arrest. Antonio Rodiles has become a household name.

Antonio Rodiles has also turned into a dangerous citizen. If the tactic of three weeks was to humiliate him with bland interrogations, the other reading is that the interrogators lacked arguments (or intelligence, or both), and these same interrogators-interrogations have confirmed for citizen Rodiles the need to maintain Estado de Sats (State of Sats) and to push forward with the Campaign for Another Cuba (Por otra Cuba) for the ratification of the UN Human Rights covenants.

If Rodiles’ case wasn’t enough for the near-sightedness of many with regards to the status of our rights and freedoms as citizens, I go to the other extreme, the case of the blog La Joven Cuba (Cuban Youth), created by young professors from the University of Matanzas.

Very quickly, thanks to the absence of censorship in the comments section and the occasional approach to controversial issues of our national reality, the blog enjoyed a notable growth and visibility within the Cuban blogosphere.

It was a surprise that on the crest of the wave, La Joven Cuba issued a warning that many of us, with good reason, interpreted as a farewell, and that many of us, with good reason, interpreted as the effect of pressure to close a space that “had moved on.”

Recently, not only were my suspicions confirmed that the pressures were great and from different sides, but that it got to point where some hothead accused them of “going too far,” but of “going over to the enemy.” Nor did the constant profession of faith that they made when they dared to address some thorny issue, free them from suspicions which they are now trying to clarify.

Unlike the opinions of others, the fate of the blog La Joven Cuba and its creators gives me no pleasure, consistent with something I’ve made clear here and as a commentator on the LJC blog: in the country I imagine, diverse and antagonistic ideological currents will coexist, rather than be enemies, and I will have family and friends who vote for different candidates than mine without it leading to a rupture in our relations.

Both cases: Rodiles and La Joven Cuba, confirm for me the lack of freedom that sickens Cuban society. You know I don’t usually engage in profound analysis, so the rest of the ruminations I leave to you.

November 28 2012

A Family Affair

My brothers have told me how embarrassed they felt when, on a day like today, they were called to come forward at the morning assembly. For the Edison Institute it was a great honor to have among its students three grandsons of the Commander of the Liberation Army, Miguel Coyula. Today, November 23, the anniversary of his death, was designated the Day of Citizen Integrity, a celebration which, like so many others, was forgotten after 1959.

My father, a militant communist all his life, sadly and quietly accepted that people had forgotten my grandfather, whose teachings and example made my father the wonderful man that he was. For his descendents, however, including those who were not even born before he died, it has been a great honor to have this legacy.

Not long ago a friend of mine asked me if our family had been rich, assuming the answer would be yes. She was surprised when I told her we were not, that the family fortune was this unmistakable but now much devalued last name. Citizen integrity in today’s Cuba is quite rare and considered utterly worthless. If mothers used to think of a doctor, a teacher or a lawyer as “a good catch,” their hearts now skip a beat at the prospect of a bartender or taxi driver, and they can burst into tears over an Italian, even if he is just a construction worker.

There is an Comptroller’s Office, but it cannot guard against the constant outflow from what is considered to be the public domain.

As you might imagine, citizen integrity has fallen on hard times, though there is no harm if I choose to remember it, considering it is a family affair.

November 23 2012

Chronicle of an (As Yet) Unannounced Libel

Antonio Rodiles, promoter of Estado de SATS and the citizen demand For Another Cuba, has been brought up on charges. The charges are not relevant, they could have been anything. As an emerging figure of civil society who, in a very short time, has managed to structure two outstanding citizen projects, Rodiles has become a very uncomfortable element for the government.

In the Taino (government) Studios they will be preparing a Special Program to air on the Roundtable program after the prime time news. Thanks to the magic of cutting and editing, we will meet a new Rodiles ready to board a transport to attend a meeting with U.S. politicians visiting the country. Thanks to this same technological wizardry, we will see him sitting next to an official from the United States Interests Section at an Estado de SATS even about Cuban-U.S. cultural relations. And thanks to the magic of controlling the media, and in particular the internet, they will present these images as THE proof that Rodiles follows a script written in Washington, and so, by the way, they will also implicate civil society activists.

My neighbor Tomas, my beloved uncle Gerardo, the sister of my friend Rebeca, and my close friend Josefa all belong to the group who will believe the message of this libel. But they underestimate a population whose educational level is around the 12th grade. There will be an abundance of people who will logically ask themselves why Rodiles is being judged for one of these offenses against authority, and not for espionage, collaboration with the enemy, or some other shadowy charge; and they will conclude as I do that it is because they would be too much, because the suggested conspiracy does not exist.

The aim of the documentary will be met with some of the viewers; but unlike other times, everyone has a relative, partner, or an acquaintance at the gym who has on their flashdrive, along with the latest Batman movie, the new season of Big Bang Theory or the final game of the World Series, the recordings of Estado de SATS and objectives of citizen demand for the signing of the UN Covenants.

I frequently remember the phrase of Lincoln (I quote from memory), that you can fool some of the people all the time, and all the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

November 16 2012

The Small Illusion

Not having his brother’s instinct for taking advantage of any circumstance and for letting the docile press pamper him, President Raul Castro is a cabinet man, not given to stealing the show. But apparently, no one hinted to him that in the case of Sandy , he ought to go as fast as he can to Eastern Cuba, and should only mourn in private, since the priority is the living, helpless in the midst of desolation. A great number of Cubans have learned through the television news that more screen time is given to a visit from General-President to the cemetery of Santa Iphigenia and the Second Front, than to his trips through the neighborhoods of San Pedrito or Parque Céspedes in Santiago de Cuba. Accustomed half a century of ubiquitous fidelity, the comments about the presidential delay, and the comparisons between the ruling brothers, were heard in the street without having to fine tune the ears too closely.

Also without fine tuning the ears, it is perceived that the U.S. elections aroused greater interest than our own. The Venezuelan election was followed almost like a Madrid-Barco football final, some out of fear of returning to power outages, others from curiosity that Chavez will leave an opponent who suffocated him, others, dreaming that Capriles that would wear the presidential sash; many, by noting that democracy in Venezuela is different that “the democracy we defend.” Not that the U.S. elections generate extraordinary interest, but that the Cuban ones wold have been a total yawn, but for the inclement Hurricane Sandy.

Back to the Obama-Romney race; infected by streetcorner analysts, I think the Democrat, now in his second term, could pull a zugzguang — a chess term which means to force your opponent to move — on our government by the lifting of the embargo and the Cuban Adjustment Act, and proposing the normalization of relations.

But in any case, Cuba will not be a priority, and we must not expect others to solve our problems if we are not capable of solving them ourselves.

And apropos of nothing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) complaint against interference in Cuban internal affairs by the U.S. Interests Section, could be a cord to increase tension in the “relations” of both governments, lest Obama softens his heart and decides to lift the embargo, which has served so well to justify both the inefficiency and the bad administration.

I don’t like the American electoral system, I don’t like that it comes down to two parties, nor do I like the complicated electoral college system, but the illusion of voting for the president, in our case it is literally an illusion, because who can vote for candidates when they are unknown to the citizens. You only need to see the press release after the elections to see the small heads of those designated by virtue of a closed election and a presidency known beforehand. Perhaps to know if someone was elected by what percent… perhaps.

I defer the illusion that my vote counts, because I’m sure that in the future, to elect my president, it will count.

Translated by WF

November 7 2012

Arrests

On Thursday, listening to the news, I hear that the police brutality lawsuit filed by the Occupy Wall Street movement against NYPD had been come out in favor of the indignant. Despite how badly everything seems to work in the United States according to Cuban radio, television and the press, sometimes I have glimpses of legislative power acting independently, glimpses that I don’t have in our own national legal system. The same day I heard that news, numerous arrests of members of civil society fulfilled the not so veiled threats contained in the note from MINREX (Ministry of Foreign Relations) from the week before last.

Our rulers forgot the path of their youthful ideals, when they believed in beauty and goodness and with moral superiority confronted the henchmen. I look with concern on their message that they want to make it clear that there will be no opening, no space for a peaceful opposition. They, who overthrew Batista by force of arms, fear ideas, words. Our poor country, tumbling to nowhere.

November 12 2012

Dialog

The cause that has kept me from this blog in recent days has been that I am the caretaker of my stepdaughter (younger than me, but not by much) who is recovering from surgery in my house.

But yesterday, having to go our midday, I got on the route 27 and inevitably overheard the dialog of a man and a woman, seated in front of me, as I rode standing up. The famous travel and immigration reform seems to be everywhere, entertaining even people who will never travel, but now they have the illusion that they might. It wasn’t these hopeful comments that impelled me to intervene in a dialog that wasn’t with me. The woman was already getting off when the man said something like, “It’s that sadly we’ve become accustomed to their giving us everything.”

After excusing myself for the interruption, in a voice not very loud but very clear, like that I used in the classroom to get the attention of the students, I expressed to the man my disagreement with his phrase. Said like that, it would seem that we Cubans have enjoyed the ability to decide our own lives, when in reality it is the government that takes the initiative, intervening in the public sphere and interfering in the private.

It was nice because the man tried to make amends with the argument that young people think they deserve everything, and he said it making a gesture towards a teenager with an emo haircut wearing the school uniform of a technical school. The young man, sensing himself alluded to, told him, “No, old man, no, the Lady is right.” Then he looked at me seriously, genuinely interested, “That shit is hot!”

I smiled at him and as my stop was coming, I said goodbye to the gentleman; we exchanged names and shook hands, and he said to the boy, like someone who reveals a key, something he will instantly forget or remember his whole life: “You are a citizen. Exercise this power, we have already left our fate in the hands of others for too long.”

November 2 2012