Cubans Are Neither Arabs Nor Muslims / Iván García

This isn’t to reject or alienate those who, from abroad, across the internet and social networks are calling for a people’s uprising or a general strike in Cuba. It’s a question of reality.

Despite the fear and the inertia that has kept the population paralyzed for 52 years, Cubans are no more brave nor less cowardly than other peoples. Nor is it a problem of streets. The regime has made people think that “the streets belong to the revolutionaries”. And that in them, there is no room for those who are disaffected or “counterrevolutionary.”

That ‘state property’ of the public spaces, be they streets, avenues, or parks, the day least expected can be taken by an unstoppable multitude of discontented citizens, who peacefully or violently decide to protest, like they’re doing right now in Liberation Plaza, in the center of Cairo. For whatever fact, whatever spontaneous form in whatever moment, to follow the actual state of things, one can be produced.

But not because nobody from other countries tells Cubans that they must (or must not) do away with the Castro Brothers’ dictatorship, one of the longest-lived and repressive in the world. More than those of Ben Ali in Tunisia or Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

That is a reality. The other is that Cuba is an island, a nation without borders, surrounded by sea. A geographic particularity that allows almost absolute control and they wish they it now had in the revolt area of the Magreb.

It is also a fact that the Cuban dissidence is very divided, some are barely known and don’t number more than a couple hundred in all the country. That is not the case of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations, with thousands of followers who don’t fear death. With an amazing calm they set themselves on fire, like that young Tunisian, who ended up being the match that lit the fire of rebellion that today crosses North Africa.

The Cubans are westerners. Life is important to us, and we are not willing to give it up at the first opportunity. Since that stage of “to die for the Fatherland is to live”, as stated in a verse of our national anthem, has long passed.

The new generations think it’s already enough, what with the number of dead compatriots in African wars, thousands (of kilometers) away from Cuban shores. Or that Che’s slogan is already past, to create “one, two, three Vietnams” to defeat “Yankee imperialism.”

Another real fact. Barely 3% of the Cuban population has access to the internet. Of that minimal percentage, almost all are official journalists and representatives of the governmental elite. Or independent journalists, opposition members, and bloggers. Even now in telephone service the panorama is changing. Right now, in Cuba there are more than a million cell phones, a number greater than landlines.

When one acquires a cell phone, he can receive and transmit SMS. Nonetheless, the immense majority of the owners of cell phones use that service to transmit personal messages, because it’s not free. Neither is it free to have Twitter on a mobile.

On Facebook the few who have ADSL in their houses, legally or illegally, can participate. Or artists and intellectuals who travel abroad and people with relatives and friends who sign them up abroad. Until this date, the social networks have constituted neither a massive means of communication nor an effective one among the average Cuban.

And it could be that it will not reach a peak in the future, either. Not even after that fiber optic cable is connected between Venezuela and Cuba. It reinforces a fact: at the head of the Ministry of Computing and Communications they named another military officer, General Medardo Díaz, 48-years-old, professional engineer.

Nor can we forget the existence of the Defense Center of Computing Studies, directed by Jesús Bermúdez Cutiño, a retired division General, born in Las Tunas in 1935. Before occupying this post, Bermúdez was head of Intelligence of the Ministry of the Interior, and head of the Military Intelligence section of the Armed Forces.

I mention it because it’s the organism in Cuba which studies in depth and follows closely all the wars and popular uprisings that are being produced in Myanmar, Iran, Tunisia, or Egypt.

While these analysts of the minute have the latest events happening in regions of conflict on the planet, Cubans continue to depend on the scarce and manipulated news that the official media offers them. When they offer it to them.

Photo: EFE. Youths demonstrate in Yemen with photos of Che.

Translated by: JT

February 6 2011