Black Spring, The Fertile Repression

Fragment of a protest poster against the Black Spring.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 March 2018 — It was early morning when the police arrived at the door of the first of the opponents who were arrested on March 18, 2003. During that operation, 75 activists and independent journalists were sentenced to long prison terms under the so-called Gag Law, which is still in force today.

Having a typewriter, reporting a violation of human rights through a telephone line, publishing an independent magazine, collecting signatures or simply offering an interview to foreign media were some of the “proofs” that the authorities used to incriminate those arrested.

There were no lack of stories of uncovered moles, informers who saved their own skins by testifying against their colleagues, nor of police excesses against the families of the detainees. The long night of repression loomed over the whole island.

The Black Spring determined to a large extent what has happened in the last fifteen years in Cuban civil society. The fear of ending up in a dungeon led many citizens to desist from expressing opinions, and exile was ultimately the destiny of a good part of those who had suffered in those dungeons. It was a hard blow for the dissent.

However, this critical point also gave rise to the emergence and development of new groups, tendencies and phenomena outside official control. Fifteen years after that attempt to uproot the opposition, there is a process of diversification and expansion of the critical sector along with greater international solidarity with opponents.

Today’s activists, direct debtors of those 75 prisoners, have broadened the issues in which they work, from groups that demand rights for the LGBTI community to associations seeking greater social spaces for people with disabilities. The Island is a hotbed of independent proposals.

Currently, the journalists arrested that March 2003 are also essential reference points for the new batch of reporters who feed the independent media. Despite the attempt to kill all journalism outside the control of the Communist Party, there has been an information explosion, thanks in part to new technologies.

The date chosen to bury what was left of Cuban civic activism must be remembered today as a chronological point that marks a new beginning. That March when Fidel Castro’s government thought that it was exterminating the dissidence was in fact the beginning of the rebellion, of the social nonconformity and of the inspiration for which we decided to create new media outside the official press.


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