Cuba: Did Anarchy Arrive? / Miriam Celaya

A Matter of Faith. Work by Cuban painter Abel Quintero

The Archbishopric of Havana has issued a press release dated September 5th, 2011 which is, at the very least, surprising. I am not referring to the somewhat sallow terms describing the wave of repression unleashed with renewed vigor by government forces against various civil society groups. We know that this is the usual discourse of the Church in Cuba, which explains why it avoids referring to the Ladies in White by that name, by which they are known throughout the world, and, in addition, the statement is limited to detailing the abuses, beatings, arrests and repudiation rallies as “incidents in which the wives of some former prisoners, who were released recently, had been abused, according to their own statements”. We already know that one must be gentle as doves…

In fact, the surprise that the note brings us lies in the government’s unusual revelation to the Church, assuring that “the order to attack these people has not come from any national decision-making center”. No matter how often the kid gloves of the high clergy towards the Cuban authorities might get irksome at times, we must admit that it is not in character for the Church to issue such inaccurate statements, and it must, therefore, be assumed that the Cuban government, in fact, stated what the note from the Havana Archbishopric claims. We should now attempt to analyze its implications, because if we were so naïve as to rely on any government communication, we would now have ample motives for alarm, since it could only lead us to several hypothetical deductions, none of them promising. They would be, for instance, as follows:

  • The government has lost control over the police and the internal order of the country.
  • The strategy of the police force is to act with impunity by their own choice, without our knowing if repressive forces autonomy was declared, or if they are now insubordinate against a central power, which would leave us totally defenseless (more defenseless even than could be possible).
  • In view of this, we are on the edge of another cliff that the General-President did not mention at the close of the VI Congress of the PCC: National chaos. A Cuba without order or control, where police acts of its own accord and the government is not even in condition to open an investigation to establish responsibilities against those who are trampling on defenseless citizens.

The note from the Archbishopric does not clarify — perhaps it is not its duty to do so — if the Church authorities were satisfied with the edict from the government. I say this because, at this moment, there is not only an alarming increase in repression, but it is reinforced and spurred by the media, which is wholly owned by the government, as evidenced by the story that aired on the well-known late TV news show on September 7th, and re-ran on the newscast at noon the next day, demonizing the Ladies in White and, before that, on Monday, September 5th, against well-known blogger Yoani Sanchez. Has the country’s central power also lost control over the media, or does the civilized world no longer classify as repression the public slandering of a country’s citizens, without even acknowledging their right to reply in the same media?

If it were not because we know that this government’s proclamation of innocence is nothing but a mockery, it would seem that we are witnessing a process of anarchy in a society already sufficiently burdened by egregious sociopolitical and economic ills. The good intentions of the Church would not be enough then to avoid violence or “any other way of dealing with the Cuban reality that could affect the peaceful coexistence and disrupt the well-being of the nation”, as the Archbishopric press release states. The “attitudes and gestures that encourage the peaceful development that Cuba needs at this changing stage we live in and that the Cuban people expect and demand” would not be enough either; the aspirations of almost all Cubans, except of the oppressors. If honesty is sought, from any side, we will have to start by recognizing that the “peaceful coexistence” in Cuba has, for some time now being shattered by violence, corruption, loss of values and other moral and material epidemics, and the government has not only taken the most active side, but has enjoyed total impunity.

Who is responsible, then, for the abuses committed against Cuban citizens? What will protect us from the escalation of violence that may occur as a result of irresponsible government? What moral authority does the government have to accuse the dissidents of instigating rebellion, while the forces of repression and official media stir some Cubans’ hatred and violence against other Cubans? Are peaceful dissidents who really are leading a social explosion in Cuba?

The Church, of course, has the answers we need, though it shares with the majority of Cubans the hope to attain a peaceful solution to Cuba’s ills. Church, civil society and dissidence have been demonstrating their rejection to violence. Nevertheless, government statements point dangerously in the opposite direction to peace. Without any doubt, the Cuban dictatorship is clearly moving more and more towards the exact middle point, as distant from God and men as from the nation’s interests.

Translated by Norma Whiting

September 9 2011