14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 March 2018 — The images of the Cuban government’s shock troops at the Summit of the Americas in Panama in 2015 will seem tame this April. The Government of the Island is preparing for the meeting of presidents and the Civil Society Forum in Lima, Peru, as if the event is a battlefield, one it plans to dominate by the volume of its cries.
Part of that confrontation began this Wednesday during the Hemispheric Dialogue, a preliminary meeting to set agendas and present the region’s numerous delegations. The speech Cuban ambassador Juan Antonio Fernandez delivered at the meeting advanced part of the strategy that will be deployed by the official delegation in a few weeks.
Setting aside the composure that his position as a diplomat requires, Fernandez opened in a vulgar tone, more worthy of a street fight than an international event. “With regards to Cuba, don’t you mess with us,” he spit out in response to a comment from Jorge Luis Vallejo, a member of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy.
Fernandez’s threat, besides being a preview of the bad taste, attacks and even blows planned by the Plaza of the Revolution, rests on a grotesque generalization, defining the Island as synonymous with an ideology, a Party and a man in power, masking the plurality and diversity of ideas that exist in the country.
However, beyond the ambassador’s tantrum, it’s worth the effort to alert the organizers of the Summit, the Peruvian hosts who will have to deal with these intolerant people, about the signals the Castro nomenklatura is sending to let them know it will seek to tarnish the event, disrupt the Civil Society Forum and even generate disturbances.
In Panama, these hordes of extremists turned the hotel where both delegations (the pro-government and the independent) were staying, into a site of political trench warfare, where they shouted, pushed, and staged an ugly show of aggression and even frightened other guests who had nothing to do with Cuba.
Over the last three years, State Security has trained its ‘troops’ for the new confrontation style, polishing its discourse to hijack the terminology of the Forum, claiming possession of concepts that, until a few years ago, they considered “bourgeois,” such as “civil society,” “community” and “governability.”
This chameleon-like simulation will allow them to present themselves as autonomous civic entities, and claim their places in the plenary room and on the debate panels. Once there, they will remove their masks and exploit their arguments with their stubborn slogans. With them there is no room for nuance because they think in a binary way: “ally or enemy,” “Fidelista or mercenary,” “poor or rich,” “north or south.”
They want to send a loud and forceful message that Castro is still “alive and kicking” a few days before Raúl Castro finishes his second term and hands over the presidential chair to a hand-picked successor. The Lima Summit is a stage for this old gerontocracy to play-act at being modern, renewed and in charge of the future.
Among those who will carry that message is the vice president of the government’s National Union of Cuban Jurists, Yamila González Ferrer, who has made it clear that she will not share “any space with ‘elements’ and mercenary organizations.” However, she did not say if she planned to withdraw from the event, or drive out the independent activists with blows, or even prevent the sessions of the Forum from taking place.
Ferrer knows that a standout performance in Peru is a guarantee of future promotion, as happened with the psychologist Susely Morfa who was catapulted into the position of general secretary of the Union of Young Communists, after she screamed in the faces of dozens of dissidents and independent Cuban journalists in the lobby of El Panama Hotel at a previous summit.
Faced with the signs of an upcoming battle, members of the real civil society will have to arm themselves with a lot of patience and avoid provocations; it will serve them well not to respond to shouting with shouting, or insult with insults. The pro-government forces are just looking for this response to start the fight.
The best way to “face” this squad of screamers is with data, information and evidence that proves what happens inside the country. Preparing presentations or exhibitions with fewer adjectives and more evidence could be a good defensive strategy.
Another advisable attitude is not to offer only complaints about the present situation, or to play the role of victims. In Peru, independent activists and sources of information from the Island must show that they have proposals and ideas for Cuba’s future. They should make it known that, unlike the shock troops that attack them, they see a country with a future where there is room for everyone.
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