Due Obedience / Reinaldo Escobar

On the afternoon of August 13*, at the corner of Obispo and Habana Street, the young Marcelino Abreu took the initiative to shout slogans and toss anti-government leaflets. In the brief minutes his demonstration lasted — until the police arrived — not a single passerby was outraged, not one stepped into Fidel Castro’s street** to stop a citizen from shouting “Down with the Tyranny!”

The concept of “due obedience” has been maintained as an argument by military personnel who have been involved in punishable acts. “Just following orders,” said the Operation Condor pilot when he was tried for having thrown opponents of some military dictatorship into the sea. The same argument was made by the interrogator who lent his hand to the torture session, or the head of the firing squad who limited himself to screaming “fire” and giving the humanitarian coup de grace. “Just following orders” repeats the soldier who shot into the demonstration, whose survivors ended up being his empowered accusers after the overthrow of the regime.

Another case is when the bosses claim they know nothing of the acts of their subordinates. There, where “everyone knows what to do” without having to be given precise orders. There, where those responsible of enforcing the law equally for all are not seen, precisely, to force anyone to harm another, at the very most they say, “safeguard the right of people to defend the street as a space for revolutionaries.”

Then there are the bosses who will say they were innocent, that those below them felt they had the prerogative to insult and beat people, to paint the facade of a house with tar and to enter the house to break everything and that they couldn’t do anything to stop them. Due obedience to the most elementary norms of civilized behavior on the part of the mob, of the horde, will be the argument tomorrow from the repressors of today.

Seeing is believing.

Translator’s notes:
* August 13 is Fidel Castro’s birthday
** “This street belongs to Fidel” is a common slogan shouted by the mobs gathered by State Security to harass dissidents and independent voices.

23 August 2010