During the summer of 1994, death ruled with impunity in my country. During that period, Cuba, which had been a civilian graveyard for decades, more closely resembled the gallows.
In the early hours of July 13, the whirlwind of violence to which the Cuban state was subjecting its citizens came to its criminal climax. The Revolution needed to prevail over the people through blood and fire. Raúl Castro summed it up in a televised speech from the Colon Cemetery: “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.”
We were in the middle of the so-called Special Period in the Time of Peace. The repression was ferocious, but so too was the people’s resistance. So too was the corruption of public servants. So too was the vandalism. There were robberies and grisly killings on every block. Family men went mad and wound up murdering their loved ones. Electricity was a luxury that we enjoyed for just a few hours a day. It was vox populi that the police had been ordered to shoot to kill. So too had the paramilitaries of the Rapid Response Brigades who wielded clubs rather than firearms.
On the early morning of July 13 a stolen tugboatfull of civilians attempted to escape the Bay of Havana. The boat was named the March 13. It was a state-owned boat, but no violence took place during the theft. In fact, it was the port workers themselves who took the boat and headed for the US. Continue reading