14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 13 October 2016 — The thaw between the US and Cuba, which has not yet risen to the level of normalized relations, has been greeted with mixed reactions by the Cuban opposition and independent civil society.
We cannot speak of an extreme polarization, because although the dissenting side registers very sharp tones, with abounding arguments and no lack of insults, the other side has never risen to explicit applause, or at most reaching a pragmatic acceptance of the fait accompli and a search for new strategies in the current scenario.
The recently concluded meeting of All for A Free Cuba gathered in Miami some 30 exile organizations along with guests from the island, with the express purpose of demanding “a real democratic change in Cuba.” The majority of participants disapproved of rapprochement between Washington and Havana, supported the US embargo and is committed to “overthrow the dictatorship of the Castro brothers” through a social explosion.
Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antúnez, Berta Soler, on behalf of the Ladies in White, and Antonio González Rodiles, from the Forum of Rights and Freedoms, all promoters of initiatives based on direct confrontation with the repressive forces of the regime, fraternized there with the crème de la crème of the historical exile, including Cuban-American politicians Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz Balart and Miami mayor Tomas Regalado, all prominent members of the Republican Party and militant opponents of Barack Obama’s policy toward Cuba.
Emphasizing the smallness of the timid reforms undertaken by the government of Raul Castro, this group insists that the change must be “real” and distances itself from the more moderate opposition sector that doesn’t see Obama’s policy as a betrayal of the opponents and aspires to solutions that don’t spill blood, including plebiscites or the use of electoral resources and dialogue with the current government.
Among the arguments most reiterated by the enemies of the thaw is the “increase in repression” that they attribute directly to the supposed “blind eye” of the United States government and the European Union in the face of the arbitrary detentions, beatings, confiscation of resources, threats, police operations to prevent the holding of meetings and other actions. This repression is carried about by troops from the political police, the Communist Party and the “mass organizations.”
However, the apparent relationship of cause and effect between the thaw and the undeniable increase in repression does not necessarily imply fault on the side supporting the thaw. It is worth asking to what extent the repressive temperature would rise if the United States agreed to the demands of the hard-line opposition and strengthened the embargo, promoted increased funding for the most energetic opposition groups and returned to the times when they parachuted arms into the Escambray mountains and promoted military initiatives such as the 2506 Brigade that invaded the Bay of Pigs, through the Central Intelligence Agency.
The whole arsenal of measures implemented today by the government of Raul Castro against opponents would then be seen as lukewarm and the return of the old days of confrontation between the United States and Cuba would bring back the executions, the long prison sentences, the literal beheading of the political opposition and the loss of an opportunity to change something in Cuba peacefully.
And would the US government also be blamed?
The All For A Free Cuba event had among its many merits appearances by musicians and comedians. Among these was the excellent artist Alen Lauzán, who showed some disturbing cartoons where we see penguins in Havana protesting the thaw.
Like any artistic production the images are provocative and polysemic. What is more appropriate in today’s Cuba: to thaw the environment or behave like a penguin?