Felipe’s Silence / Yoani Sánchez

Felipe Perez Roque at the united Nations. Image taken from wn.com

Barely four years ago, the former Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque played a leading role at the United Nations against the American embargo of Cuba. It was his voice that explained the commercial, economic and financial privations that derive from it. The exalted official exposed what many know by heart: the multiple effects resulting from these limitations — since 1962 — to industry, technological development and even public health. But the then Minister of Foreign Affairs said nothing about the internal siege that we suffer from, nothing about that other wall of censorship and punishment that, shortly afterward, would fall also upon him.

The simple fact of choosing the word “embargo” or preferring the more fearsome “blockade” marks a quasi-ideological position. That issue has been so manipulated in the national press that the government doesn’t recognize that among those who oppose the system are many who also oppose the United States trade restrictions on the Island. The newspaper Granma assumes that those of us who demand a political opening applaud, ipso facto, the existence of the embargo. Hence, so many surprised faces when they hear our own arguments for lifting it as soon as possible; reasons that Felipe Perez Roque never said at the U.N. and that he only learned when he came to be the ousted foreign minister.

The five decade prolongation of the “blockade” has allowed every setback we’ve suffered to be explained as stemming from it, justified by its effects. But its existence has not prevented the luxurious mansions of the nomenklatura from swimming in whiskey, their freezers packed with food while modern cars sit in the garages. To make matters worse, the economic fence has helped to fuel the idea of a place besieged, where dissent comes to be equated with an act of treason. The exterior blockade has strengthened the interior blockade.

I hope that today’s vote in the United Nations is favorable toward those of us who wish such absurdity to end, especially we who consider the end of the embargo as a definitive blow to the authoritarianism under which we live. The official delegation, for its part, will interpret it otherwise: they will applaud with satisfaction, declare that this constitutes “another victory for the Revolution.” In Havana, meanwhile — far from watchful eyes — certain higher ups will celebrate with Johnny Walker and wolf down some delicate appetizer “Made in the USA.”

25 October 2011