Good Vandalism and Bad Vandalism

People carrying off soft drink bottles, air conditioning equipment, even mattresses, act in a similar way to others in Santiago de Chile, Quito, Cali, or Washington. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, July 17, 2021 — Those who only pay attention to the news broadcast by the official media are inclined to believe that what happened in Cuba on July 11 and during the “aftershocks” on the following days was limited to acts of vandalism, looting, and antisocial conduct carried out by criminal elements.

That certainly occurred, but it was not “what happened.” Terrifying images have been broadcast on national television channels of violent individuals throwing Molotov cocktails, overturning police cars and, above all, looting stores that only take payment in freely convertible  (i.e. foreign) currency. Those carrying off soft drink bottles, air conditioning equipment, even mattresses, act in a similar way to others in Santiago de Chile, Quito, Cali or Washington.

The most significant difference, from the point of view of official propaganda, is that in those capitalist countries the narrative is about “the outraged populace” lashing out at the system by taking justice into their own hands, but when it happens in Manzanillo, Cárdenas or Güines, it is about the scum of society attacking the interests of the people.

Because the simplification of the facts is so crude, fewer and fewer accept these interpretations. It is as absurd to equate the acts of vandalism as representative of the peaceful protests demanding freedom as it would be to reduce the demonstrations in support of the triumphant Revolution of January 1, 1959, by displaying only the damage done to the gambling casinos or to the parking meters in Havana that day. Or doesn’t that qualify as vandalism?

The difference is that the vandals in other places rob stores with the conviction that the system provides them with certain rights, and they violate the law knowing that other laws protect them. Here, men and women of all ages and races broke doors and smashed the windows of stores where they are unable to buy due to lack of access to the necessary currency.

In taking the step of transgressing the rigid rules of proper conduct of the “New Man” they were not thinking that the always ruthless revolutionary justice would forgive them for that lapse. Most likely, they believed that the end had come and that, in the absence of gambling casinos or parking meters, this would be the way of celebrating their particular first of January.

The question that those in charge on the island should ask themselves is: how is it possible that so many people throughout Cuba have the perception that “this” is over?

Translated by: Tomás A.


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