Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, Florida, 29 July 2019 — The repressive escalation against civil society activists and independent journalists continues to increase in Cuba. Everything confirms, without room for doubt, that the dictatorial will is to completely suffocate any manifestation contrary or even moderately critical of the political power.
Unreasonable arbitrary short time detentions; the absurd migratory “regulations” that prohibit dozens of activists and journalists from leaving the country to prevent them from participating in forums, training courses and events of any nature; the raids and confiscation of means of work, among other strategies, are everyday occurrences, generating an atmosphere of tension similar to that preceded by the raids of the Black Spring (2003), when 75 dissidents, among them journalists and political opponents, were prosecuted and convicted to long sentences in Castro prisons.
What stands out now is that the harassment remains constant, especially — although not exclusively — against the youngest and most active members of the emerging civil society.
This time the police offensive goes beyond the one usually employed against the “traditional” dissent — formed by political parties, journalists and activists of various initiatives, already fused for years in these leadership roles — and extends to more recent citizen, proposals, whether they are promoted by contestant artists, journalistic websites tolerated until yesterday, or by a whole plethora of new actors that are adding voices and wills in a definitively plural society, which has ceased to be unanimous and uniform and has found in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) an effective tool to exist, get informed and proliferate in the social networks, extending their communication and influence beyond government control.
Simultaneously, and against the deepening economic crisis, far from stimulating the growth of what they call “non-State forms of the economy,” the authorities continue their strategy of pressure and persecution against the private sector under the pretext of an alleged fight against corruption, infractions, or abusive prices and hoarding. It could be said that, in the midst of growing hardships, there is a government effort to win enemies in the population.
Price ceilings in market and private sector services, mandatory routes for passenger carriers, excess bureaucratic controls and regulations, extortion by an army of corrupt parasites called “state inspectors,” demonization of wealth and, more recently, a new decree-law to arbitrarily regulate the use of the internet, are some forms of the war without quarter that the State-Party-Government is waging on an increasingly impoverished and exhausted citizenship, but also a citizenship that is more dissatisfied and frustrated.
The Palace of the Revolution can barely disguise that what lies beneath such a show of strength is an undeniable weakness. The political mafia knows that the “continuity” proclaimed by the current hand-picked president is not possible in a Cuba driven by increasingly urgent changes. The paradox is that these changes would bring a scenario incompatible with the much-vaunted continuity. And since power is chained in its own absurdity, it has opted for the worst route: to crush any hint of citizen independence, without exceptions, be it political or economic in nature.
At the same time, the government’s much-fondled discourse of a “plaza under siege” becomes less effective, if not harmless. Not only because the Venezuelan crisis, combined with the pressures of the current US administration are severely affecting the Cuban economy and creating a social climate unfavorable to the populist-nationalist superficiality and the old battle trench slogans, but because in the new generations, immune to the communist infection and the “revolutionary” obsession, there is an abundance of “deserters,” more than the numbers of those faithful to the myth of the Moncada, the Granma and the Sierra Maestra.
A good part of Cubans born since the dark 90’s are currently grouped into two sides: the side of the opportunists, who pretend loyalty to the system to defend niches or privileges, and the side of the nonbelievers. The latter is the breeding ground where the irreverent abound, those who, as if the fact that they ignore the legacy of the “the historical generation” were not enough, mock it, flooding the networks of memes with images that were considered, until recently, sacred icons of the revolutionary pantheon, and placing the nomenclature at all levels, more earnestly since — finally! — the murky Cuban hierarchy decided to “govern with transparency” using the internet. And it is well known that under conditions of dictatorship all questioning is dissent.
Consequently, to the two ever-useful villains – Imperialism and its “mercenaries of the internal opposition” — a growing number of young people have been added who, with citizen positioning from virtual space, and devoid of ideological extremisms and idolatries to false heroes, exercise the right to make demands on the leaders and to encourage changes within the Island.
More than a decade after a dark character of the “historical” nomenclature threatened to “tame the runaway colt of the internet,” not only has independent digital journalism multiplied and diversified, but new social actors are emerging, grouping together, getting organized and convening activities according to their interests, beyond the will of the caste in power. It is the worst nightmare of any autocracy.
In the meantime, the signals extending from the Power predict more difficult times and greater risks. There are reasons to suspect that what today seems to be the simple heartbeat of the Castro Regime’s strength, might well be the prelude to a new attack. And this time the repressive machinery will not only come for opponents, dissidents, activists and independent journalists, but against all manifestations of citizen freedom. If we really aspire to a plural Cuba, it is time to stop thinking in the singular: We are all Cuba.
(Miriam Celaya, a resident of Cuba, is visiting the United States)
Translated by Norma Whiting