Non-Violence in Cuba: A Particular Case? / Luis Felipe Rojas

I was recently debating with some friends about the methods used by opposition movements around the world which have been successful in tearing down authoritarian regimes. Some examples were the Serbians who toppled Milosevic, the South Africans who forced the segregationist government to sit alongside Mandela, and the Chileans which put an end to Pinochet by saying NO. 20 years later, we see all of this as something mystical, mythical, and magical. They attack me for being a dreamer, affirming that we are not the same, and I respond with equally challenging questions: And why are we not the same? Is it because we don’t share similarities?

Based on the testimonies offered by the leaders of the Serbian youth movement known as Optor and the people in general, we know that the citizens of the Balkans did not have any less fear of General Tito and Milosevic than Cubans have of the Castro brothers over here. As far as I know, for decades, the democratic world ignored the atrocities of the apartheid regime, the Soviet political prisoners, and the assassinations in Romania…the same thing that has happened with Cuba until very recently.

A humble shoemaker from Kraków refused to collaborate with the Solidarity movement due to fear of losing his only source of income, and that is why he was incapable of “abandoning his life of lies”, according to Vaclav Havel in La Seguritate in Bucharest. People would become paralyzed just by seeing an ID card. ”Three armed policemen” closed down a street of Santiago and any Chilean would freeze with terror. However, one day they all said Enough. And the abuses came to an end. As far as we have witnessed, the gravest horror has lasted 73 years. So then, how is it that we are not similar?

In Cuba, a document which was put together and translated by Omar Lopez Montenegro has been going from hand to hand. It is titled “10 Easy Steps Towards Non-Violence” and it was successfully developed by Optor. I would like to turn on the fire of this blog’s comment section and I’d like to start intentionally by step number 7 which suggests “inducing desertion in the forces of Security”. The Cuban regime and the skeptics of non-violence allude to the fidelity of Cuban troops with the dictatorship, and their subjection to the perks which one offers to the other, as well as the character of total control which the government of Havana has sold to all its supporters for more than 50 years.

For some of those who took part in the discussion in Santiago de Cuba about a week ago, I remind them that:

A) In either dictatorial governments of Gerardo Machado or Fulgencio Batista, there was not a prison in each province for undisciplined, corrupt, and deserter soldiers as exist today within the Armed Revolutionary Forces (FAR).

B) In 58 years of a Republic, including crimes and excesses, there was never a need for Prevention units to retain and capture fugitive soldiers, as occurs right now with the 16 year old recruits which have just barely stepped out of adolescence and are just joining the General Military Service (mandatory). Does anyone have the exact statistics of Cuban soldiers and reservists which, in the Castro-organized wars in Africa, deserted or wandered off in those countries and later ended up in the United States or Europe?

Many ask themselves if Cuban soldiers would really use tanks against the civil population. What about the police agents who today turn their faces to not be photographed by citizens- what are they hiding? What do they fear? What indirect message are they sending us?

29 February 2012