Translator’s Note: The screenshot above is taken from a social media post in 2021 by the Archipelago Collective. The essay below by Jeovany Jiménez Vega appeared on his blog on November 9, 2021, six days before the originally-scheduled date of a protest planned by the organization.
15 November 2021
Civic March for Change
The regime’s response shows once again that the rule of law does not exist in Cuba, that they are unwilling to respect even their own constitution, and that they violate the human rights of the Cuban people. The regime’s response has made a mockery of the very chief justice Supreme Tribunal, who declared that Cuba would respect the right of protest. The regime’s response is filled with falsehoods, defamations, and lies. The regime’s response constitutes a crime. On 15 November our personal decision will be to march civically and peacefully. In the face of authoritarianism, we will respond with civility and more civility.
Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 9 November 2021 — Just a few days remain until D-Day, but for several weeks now every Cuban has been fairly certain about where and how he will observe November 15 this year: whether he will be content to water his daisies and swallow the usual swill served up by “Humbertico”* on Cubavisión, or whether, for variety’s sake — just to humanly do something different — he will heed that deep voice of his conscience that demands he defy his fear and take to the streets against the Thousand-Headed Hydra.
Unlike others, the Archipelago announcement was not launched from abroad by some émigré safe from the repressive police baton, but from Havana and other Cuban provinces by young people assuming that tremendous risk on their home turfs. This time the call did not go unheeded but rather found resonance inside and outside of Cuba to the point of mobilizing thousands of émigrés who, in more than fifty cities, will support the initiative on several continents that day. Feeling challenged, the regime unsheathed its sword and made full use of its machinery of propaganda, coercion, and terror, before which Archipelago, with admirable nobility, has not backed down and stands by its proposal, so the die is cast.
When the sun rises above the horizon next Monday [November 15, 2021] over this Island imprisoned by Castroism, it will do so over one of three distinct scenarios, the first of which is what I consider the most probable:
Some 24 or 48 hours prior to the protest, ETECSA will have perpetrated its usual digital blackout — due to a certain “unexpected” rupture caused by some solar flare, no doubt — which, along with selective cuts to key phone lines, will render various centers of insubordination incommunicado. Already by that time, the principal organizers will have been detained or confined to their homes, and the mobs of thugs and hooligans assembled from whichever barracks or military academies can join in the parade convened by the “cultural” authorities to fill the streets on precisely that Monday (what better day for festivities than a Monday?) will have been “spontaneously” organized with all that revolutionary tastiness that so typifies the regime’s moments of great unease.
The second scenario would be somewhat less likely: somehow the organizers would have foreseen the first scenario, managed to evade the repressors, and gone into the street without being stopped at the first corner by the political police. Since they would know in advance that they would be incommunicado, they would have agreed on an independent action that would not require feedback between the parties and each one would proceed according to a previously agreed protocol — of which their repressors would also very likely be aware — which would significantly reduce the chances of success. In both cases, there would be several sources of protest, but the lack of coordination would quickly take its toll with a net result of dozens of new prisoners.
Most improbable of all — it pains me to say — would be the third scenario, something more epic: the Cuban people, aware of their rights and willing to defend them tooth and nail, being definitively fed up with the brutal and unjustified poverty to which late-stage Castroism subjects them, massively support the call; they do not give in to whatever threat the henchmen have hurled, and once the confusion of that first moment has been overcome, they resist with courage in the streets.
Against all odds, the flood is diverted from the regime’s control, this time growing bigger than on July 11, and after the first attack by the hordes of repressors, the neighborhoods entrench themselves, resisting for days that turn into weeks and months; the protest evolves into organized resistance that eventually paralyzes the country to the point of making it ungovernable; the oligarchs of Castroism quickly lose the support of a large part of the army officer corps who are aware of the abuses committed against their people and of which they disapprove; the first units rebel, others quickly second the uprising, the situation worsens and only then does the world take the Cuban problem seriously. All the major international organizations speak out and the rejection of Castroism becomes universal, Havana is completely diplomatically isolated and more and more regular troops join the uprising until the main squares are taken. This is when the Castro clan and their henchmen try to flee but are arrested and handed over to popular Justice, a civilian/military junta forms the transitional government, and a free nation emerges in Cuba.
Although this would be the happy ending dreamed of by all, it would be better that we were pinched and awakened, because with autocracies as consolidated as Castroism, things don’t work that way. The Cuban dictatorship has invested too much time, and too many resources and malicious instruction manuals to have it all come crashing down after a mere couple of quakes. It would be naive to expect that the number of Cubans taking to the streets would surpass that of 11 July, given the impunity with which the rights of millions were trampled, and after the thousands of detainees and victims of battery, and the more than 500 prisoners whose individual sentences exceed a quarter century.
If this dictatorship knows our fears so well, it is for having been their patient gardener, planting them one by one, and, fertilizing them with cold cruelty, it has grown fat on them, and on them it has pinned all its hopes. Today, Castroism reaps the fruits of the terror that it fermented in our brain, and the harvest seems too bloody for us to suddenly uproot the deeply implanted evil. It is at times like these that we as a people pay the high price rendered to tyrants every time we join their ranks out of inertia: when we apathetically cast a vote, when we parade on May 1st, or wave innocent banners on some “glorious” July 26th; every time we go on a work mission abroad knowing that we would legitimize their cynical discourse; when we keep complicit silence in the face of an oppressed colleague, an unjustly condemned opponent, a decent neighbor who with dignity resisted that rally of repudiation. When this would happen — you, Cuban who now suffers — we would do nothing but issue a license to tyrants and dig our own grave.
Recklessness is worth as much as the reasons that prompt it, even anger is worthy, but what is worthless is the naivety of supposing that Castroism has been exhausted when it still has ample resources within its reach — paralyzing tendrils from which to reactivate conditioned fears — at a time when the democratic world seems to have turned its back on our drama. Hence, this hand-picked monstrosity continues to mock the norms of decency with surprising success, and on the permissive world podiums — along with analogous regimes — even manages to reserve for Havana a comfortable seat on the Human Rights Council of the indifferent United Nations, which knows nothing.
Archipiélago’s call to action has generated wide controversy among those who support it and those who, for the time being, opt for more conservative tactics. The former group responds to an irrefutable argument: we suffer from an unsustainable economic and social situation in a country that has collapsed under not only a health emergency but, above all, due to decades of government ineptitude that stiffen our entire productive fabric; Cuba is a country paralyzed by the same backward “fortress under siege” discourse**, where poverty and hopelessness have reached unfathomable levels. Therefore, these brave people have enough with this list of very justifiable reasons to launch a protest which, by the way, is their right as legitimately endorsed in the current Constitution.
On the other hand, those who disagree over the prudence of this launch also do so from an irrefutable position: lacking logistical guarantees and without a previous organization centered around visible leaders who can summon the people from clear and credible assumptions, with achievable goals, and under the protection of minimally effective foreign support from the Cuban diaspora and the international community, it will be extremely difficult to put the dictatorship in such a compromising situation as to extract lasting concessions or ultimately remove it from power.
These are not less courageous nor worse patriots than the others, no — I am personally aware of this — but they speak from the certainty granted by the experience of suffering in their own flesh the consequences of mistakes they are sensing today in this new call; they do nothing more than warn against repeating mistakes so that everything may end up redounding in benefits for the regime and in popular frustration set off, rather than foster, faith in future calls. The reiteration of frustrated calls would be fatal in terms of negative conditioning as it would generate a predictable erosion that would bog down the social psyche. The regime knows this and will play its best notes on that string, knowing that it would not be able to brutalize a rampant people and will first bet on exhausting our capacity of resistance – something also foreseen by this “skeptical” opposition that these days has been unafraid to play the role of spoilsport.
The incontestable evidence of facts supports this undoubtedly correct strategic approach. In practical terms, the reckless exits of UNPACU [Patriotic Union of Cuba] during several decades or the activism of other groups such as the United Anti-Totalitarian Front (FANTU) have been of little use, as were the multiple initiatives of the Estado de Sats or the exemplary resistance of the Ladies in White once their undisputed victory was consummated in 2010, among other laudable and even inspiring examples, but all of which have something in common: none has managed to erode the regime in its deepest foundations. From all this, one certainty can be drawn: any opposition initiative or strategy in Cuba seems doomed to failure as long as it does not achieve enough convening power to bring the country to a standstill in an indefinite general strike or something similar in scope.
Courage is not reprehensible, nor even is recklessness, when the warrior goes into battle armed with reasons to fight. But even the most just ones are of little use when a long war is launched from false assumptions, ignoring the real scale of the challenge, or from the unfounded naivety of underestimating the means and cruelty of the enemy, if a realistic vision of the whole is not achieved or when, with supreme naivety, one hopes to dialogue with a counterpart who has never buried the hatchet of war. Let us hope that on Tuesday, November 16, we will have finally learned this.
Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison
* “Humbertico” – A diminutive version of the name Humberto. Cubans express affection or disdain for somebody by diminutizing their name. In this case, Jeovany is expressing his disdain for Humberto López, a presenter on Cuban Television and member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
** “the same backward ‘fortress under siege’ discourse” – A reference to a motto, “In a besieged fortress, all dissent is treason,” adopted by the Castro regime shortly after the 1959 Revolution from Jesuit founder Ignacio de Loyola. Fidel and Raul Castro were educated by Jesuits in Cuba.