Now They Are the Ones Who Are Afraid of Us

“Freedom does not fit in a suitcase,” warn many on social media. (Screen capture)

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14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 16 July 2021 — In the line, nobody speaks. A woman stares at the toe of her shoe and a young man taps his fingers on the wall. A few days have passed since Cubans took to the streets in a protest without precedents in the last 62 years and outrage pervades every space. As images of police brutality emerge in the media, with more testimonies of mothers with their children who have disappeared since that Sunday, and videos of militarized cities, popular irritation grows.

Anyone who, before that already historic date, did not know this island might say that the authorities have managed to control the situation and that calm reigns again in the Cuban streets. But, in reality this apparent tranquility is just fear, anger and pain. In Havana, the tension in the air can be cut with a knife and everywhere there are police, military and civilians associated with the Government with improvised clubs in their hands. Inside the houses the discomfort increases and the tears flow. Few have slept through the entire night.

Thousands of families are looking for someone in the police stations, while many others wait for the uniformed men to knock on their door to take away a relative suspected of participating in the protests. Some new sources of disagreement explode in different parts of the national geography and are drowned with blows and shots by special troops, the dreaded “black wasps.” Many independent journalists are detained, others are under house arrest, and internet access has been censored on several occasions since the first popular demonstration broke out.

The people whom the authorities showed as completely faithful to the system, docile and peaceful, no longer exists. In its place, there is a country full of screams, some loud and some silent, so it is not possible to calculate exactly when it will explode. The real Cuba has distanced itself even more from the nation that inhabits the official press. The former feel that they have recovered their civic voice, massively tested their strength in the streets, and tasted shouting the word “freedom” aloud; while the headlines controlled by the official press speak of conspiracies coming from outside, of small groups that demonstrated, and of criminals who vandalized markets. Both stories are mutually exclusive and cannot coexist for long.

Miguel Díaz-Canel tried to shade things with the first words he spoke before the microphones that Sunday when, practically every hour, a new focus of protest came to light. “The combat order is given” and “we are ready for anything,” he threatened then, and the ghost of civil war flew over the archipelago. Now, without retracting those words, he intersperses concepts such as “harmony,” “peace” and “joy” but fails to convince, because along with those syrupy phrases hundreds of buses throughout the country continue to discharge their shock troops in squares and neighborhoods.

So far, the only announced easing, in an attempt to quell the protests, has been to cancel the limits on travelers bringing medicine, food, and toiletries to the Island. But the measure comes late; after years of demands it is seen as a crumb before the strong social demand that the system be dismantled, its main figures resign and a transition to democracy begin as soon as possible. “Freedom does not fit in a suitcase,” many warn on social networks, just as rebellion is not stopped by a police shield. “We were so hungry that we ate our fear”, can also be read everywhere. But now we have so much anger that they are the ones who fear us, and it shows.


This text was originally published on the  Deutsche Welle website  for Latin America.


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