Forgotten: Black and Dissident

Snia Garro
FREE the Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso NOW! Poster by Rolando Pulido

The case of the arbitrary arrest of Sonia Garro and her husband Ramon Alejandro is confusing for several reasons. That she belongs to the well-known group the Ladies in White and he to an independent Afro-Cuban organization, highlights lack of tactics or support (or both) by our internal dissent.

Recognized international institutions have raised the alarm at such injustice, but what has happened inside Cuba? The recent case of a protest against the police for the arrest of well-known figures like Yoani Sánchez, Antonio Rodiles and Angel Santiesteban (respectively: a receiver of many awards, a new rising star and prize-winning writer) among others, demonstrated what a nonviolent force can achieve pushing back against a repressive government.

In the case of Garro and her husband there has been a lack of actions to pressure the government from the dissident circles where they were recently active before being imprisoned, that is specific actions, specific public planned demands with the idea of exposing their situation to international public opinion.

Just because they are two almost unknowns they should not be neglected, left to their fate; a demand organized in stages, starting with the issuing of letters to the authorities, appearing before every police station, and a call by a considerable part of the internal opposition could pressure the authorities with a different urgency.

Among the most common questions about the case are whether Sonia Garro is a street activist, directly confronting the dictatorship, and this has put her in a select and minority group on the island, which has undermined solidarity, or whether others take individual actions as she did, women who, finally, take a powerful weapon like a “pot-banging demonstration” to make their voices heard.

Another angle that is taken into account is whether her membership in a marginal sector, her social background of extreme poverty and her skin color have resulted in her being deserted by those who don’t feel close to her, considering her level of education, her projection as an opponent, or her open and uncontrolled challenges to daily repression.

This married couple, brave opponents, now imprisoned without a defined legal process, have left a teenage daughter without their daily care. No matter how painful the case, it is no longer uncommon. It is a damaging trend that virtually unknown human rights activists languish in the dungeons of Cuba without proper promotion and attention from the elite dissident.

What I say here may be fodder for debate, but I dare say “another rooster would crow” — it would be a different story — if the renowned photographer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, the musician Ciro Diaz or me (why not) would have suffered a long detention. Although now I am in exile I have good reason to demand that with my brothers, both on the island and beyond, we raise our voices, but all at once to demonstrate as strongly as possible our outrage at the case of Sonia Garro and her husband, as well as those of all political prisoners.

That the political police officials are confessed racists and use the crime of racism as a weapon to try to humiliate unconquerable opponents, should alarm us even more. If it is the repressors who practice these different variants of apartheid, let it be we who fight this scourge, we should not go along sleeping peacefully, as if nothing is happened.

January 18 2013