Clandestinos, Legitimate Protest or Provocation by State Security?

Since the first days of this year, the Clandestinos group has been spreading images of busts of José Martí covered in pig blood. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 January 2020 —  On January 1, coinciding with the most emblematic date of the Cuban Revolution, which celebrated its 61st anniversary that day, a group called Clandestinos emerged on social networks to take credit for a protest campaign that consists of pouring a red liquid on the busts of José Martí.

“It is not an outrage to the Apostle [as Cubans of all persuasions are wont to call José Martí] but a shout of war against the dictatorship,” Clandestinos explained on Twitter and Facebook, where it posts the photos and videos of stained busts in various cities and other actions against posters of Fidel Castro or graffiti denouncing the “chivatos (informants).

“This weekend let’s have a red tsunami in Cuba. Let there be no province unmarked. Every town. Every neighborhood,” they announced last Friday in a video. “This is a war. […] The time has come. Change is now.”

These actions have provoked an intense debate on social networks. Some approve them, although many dislike the desecration of Marti’s image. However, others fear that it is a State Security strategy to discredit opponents and repress them more forcefully.

The official press accuses the group of staining the national hero and calls its members “counterrevolutionaries,” “vile” and “traitors.” On January 9, the authorities announced that two members of the group had been arrested and investigated for vandalizing busts and billboards, but the organization says it does not know the prisoners.

The movement has disseminated a manual with its procedures and has asked those who sympathize with their cause to unite and act. “Wearing a mask, acting as a oartner,” and using anonymous accounts on social networks to upload the images of the actions, are some of the recommendations offered.

Clandestinos in Cuba, sounds like a diversionist construct of the DSE (Department of State Security), to discredit the opposition and justify the repression,” says the former diplomat Pedro Campos, who adds that these events “can divert attention from: repression, prisoners, no democracy or rights, censorship, high prices and other things.”

A thesis that is repeated in a recent issue of Primavera Digital, entitled The Last Play Clandestinos!, which points out that for the authorities “it became a priority to divide and discredit the internal peaceful opposition (…) for this, nothing would be better than to accuse those who fight for the ideals promoted and exposed in his time by Marti.”

Miriam Celaya is another of the voices that questions the movement and the fact that they act with their faces covered. ” By nature, I am suspicious of masked faces that evoke the Tupamaros (Uruguayan Urban Guerillas), the ETA (Basque Country and Freedom members) and other denominations of ominous remembrance and equivocal causes.” The journalist is committed to “frontal and open-ended resistance against the Castro regime,” in a text published in Cubanet.

Clandestinos has also called to “mark the house of an informant,” a tactic that some do not understand, like music producer Adrián Monzón. “To make them known? To summon the ‘enraged people’? To start a civil war? To raise the passion of those who woke up and no longer inform? To recruit cannon fodder that protects DSE (State Security)?”

The group has reiterated on several occasions that it is not “political” or “opposition,” marking their distance from the dissident movement of the Island, but some support their activism and believe that their tactics are a fresh breeze after the exhaustion of previous strategies.

“There is no other option better than Clandestinos. Open opposition does not lead to anything without access to the media, when the government controls the judges, the prisons the courts… insisting on the same after six decades of failures will lead to to the same result, to nothing,” a commentator responded to Miriam Celaya’s article.

Actor Roberto San Martín is enthusiastic about the Clandestinos, with whom he is in “100% agreement with their ideas…They are trying to bring down the indifference and have achieved the perfect balance between action and how to get attention,” he said in an interview.

The actor justified the use of blood on busts, because Marti “has been manipulated by the dictatorship [that] has used the name of the Apostle for reproach, against the people and for abuse.”

Guillermo Fariñas has been one of the few opposition leaders who has so far spoken on the subject. From Miami, where he was visiting, the dissident said of the members of the collective, “what they do is exercise the right to rebellion.”

“It is a group that does not use the same non-violent methods as ours,” said the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. “Other opponents and I go on one path, but the right to rebellion exists and they can go on other paths.”


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