“We Have to Get the Police Out of Our Heads” / 14ymedio, Yania Suarez

Erick Jennische, Swedish sociologist and journalist, author of ‘We Have to Get the Police Out of Our Heads'
Erick Jennische, Swedish sociologist and journalist, author of ‘We Have to Get the Police Out of Our Heads’

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yania Suarez, Stuttgart, 12 September 2016 – Erik Jennische, author of “We Must Get the Police Out of Our Heads” declared that the book was written to enlighten the Swedish reader about the democratic movement in Cuba and its current state. However, the Cuban reader will not find much of use in this reporting, even though it is the most complete that exists on the subject.

Despite their efforts at transparency, despite that in recent years the presence of dissidents on the web and on TV in Miami, they are still a mystery for the majority of those living on the island. The stigma of official propaganda against them still prevails and, above all, the idea still prevails that they are a group of conspirators, plotters, filled with secrets, who work in the shadows (reality is not like this, but what is reality, on the other hand?). The consequences of this general ignorance are considerable: in the collective imagination, opponents are isolated and inaccessible, because people do not usually participate in what they do not understand, and they also tend to fear it. continue reading

Jennische’s book eliminates this prejudicial enigma about them and tries to explain them in almost all their aspects (leaving the task of scorn for the enemy).

We find in it everything from the path a person can take to become an opponent of the regime (a subject that interested the sociologist Jennishce in its time), to certain keys to understand the new relations with the United States; from the first steps of the movement, to its current shape and direction. The result is extremely enjoyable, the book reads with the nimbleness of a story – a form it uses more than a few times – despite the flawed translation.

An interesting chapter examines the principal organizations in Miami, about which we know little. Another talks about the indirect influence of Gene Sharp in the recent direction of the democratic movement. Another evaluates the advantages of the internet – which the government fears because, among other reasons, it establishes certain social conditions that Fidel Castro exploited for this struggle and later eliminated when he came to power.

The unveiling of undercover agents that happened during the trials of the 2003 Black Spring, the author derives that the function of those infitrated was merely propagandistic: they offered no “secret” information from espionage because all of these opposition figures had been public and didn’t spy on anybody; nor was very consistent evidence needed for the convictions.

Rather, “the results of the participation of those agents in the democratic movement for year, were simple defamations… they described the democratic activists as cowardly, avaricious, imbeciles and contentious,” as if it were a telenovela (one could add that they also conferred on them the mystery that today distances others from them, having been “revealed” to the people through an “espionage operation”).

“We Have to Get the Police Out of Our Heads” has generated some controversy when, at the end of the book it suggests that we have perhaps overestimated the ability of the secret police to stop the progress of the democratic movement. The efficient Stasi, the author argues, couldn’t stop it in Germany despite their growing files, and the reason is that they are incapable of processing the information they collect into a good analysis of society. Surveillance, on the other hand, only serves to intimidate the indecisive and to publicly stone a person.

Certainly, the question raised is much more interesting than the conclusion above. In Cuba there are experienced leaders with more than a little responsibility such as Jose Daniel Ferrer, who pay a lot of attention to the issue of infiltrators in their groups, because state security is also engaged in sabotaging, through agents, the activities of the opposition.

But the contribution of Jennische, even in that controversial fragment, is always intelligent, always worthwhile. The reader will appreciate the discrete analysis that guides it and the abundance of data gathered. It is not a definitive book: the history of the democratic movement remains to be written and some will find missing pieces. But it is a good step to moving us beyond that difficult shadow.

Rebellion Comes To The Theater / 14ymedio, Yania Suarez

El Portazo offers an ingenious show where theatrical drama merges with cabaret
El Portazo offers an ingenious show where theatrical drama merges with cabaret

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yania Suarez, Havana, 19 November 2015 – The presentation of Cuban Coffee by Portazo’s Cooperative was a public success during the Havana Theater Festival and is currently a success in Matanzas, its place of origin. Staged by the Matanzan group El Portazo and directed by Pedro Franco, the spectacle seeks – in addition to being profitable – to discuss the problem of Cubans’ prosperity, “starting with economic research based on our present reality.”

The group offers an ingenious show where theatrical drama merges with cabaret and the public is treated like customers enjoying the artistic and gastronomic offerings of El Portazo cooperative.

Cuban Coffee raises the dilemma of the recent changes in the island’s economy that harms natives while benefitting foreign investors. During the play, these latter are equated to “invaders” through scenes recalling the fights for independence and tributes to the heroes of these events, along with a question about love of country that is repeated on several occasions. continue reading

A fragment titled “The Taking of Havana by the English” traces the tragedy of Pepe Antonio, native of Guanabacoa and still living, who leaves the country because he got tired of living off tourist tips, wants an iPhone, and what he hates most is “working for the English.” His story manages some good moments that successfully mix tragedy and comedy.

This emotional and direct rebellion that gains strength in the first two acts, is diluted in the last act

The audience was especially excited about the reference to the real drama of a generation that has abandoned the country en masse, as well as by the reading of a letter from Leonor Perez to his son in exile. The laughter grew with the first appearance of the militia character, a drag queen in a wig with a pink gun, who launches an act of repudiation against the young people who are leaving, while she points her gun and dubs Rata de Dos Patas (Two-legged Rat), a famous song by the Mexican Paquita la del Barrio that went viral on YouTube.

During a good part of the show there are statements of rebellion and independence. However, regrettably, this emotional and direct rebellion that gains strength in the first two acts, is diluted in the last act, titled “Where we attend morning assemblies so as not to lose the tradition of dialog and our basic naivete” where the criticism exhibited becomes “constructive criticism.”

The “constructive criticism” must meet two unalterable premises. The first is that the government is capable of solving the problem, and second, that the time frame to reach the solution is undefined (and even infinite). If the criticism fails to meet these requirements, the criticism is considered an attack and the person making it is an enemy of the people. More than criticism, it’s about a statement of faith.

After so much exciting rebellion and the demand for so much courage, at the end of the show there is a sense of retreat. The Militant protests because her life project is happening “in slow motion,” as troubadour Erick Sanchez’s song says, but an infinite time credit is extended to those responsible for it. It calls for respect for its opinion without having distinguished it from that of the powers that be, and falls back on official euphemisms, but just shows its obedience and diminishes its voice. It is a shame that in a work so well staged, it ends this way.