Neither Strong Men nor Soft Coups / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

A Sunday march of the Ladies in White in Havana. (14ymedio)
A Sunday march of the Ladies in White in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 24 August 2015 — Two notable Cuban analysts, Carlos Alberto Montaner and Rafael Rojas, have plunged the scalpel almost simultaneously, but without having come to an agreement (as far as we know) about a particular issue: the popular anti-government protests in Latin America. Montaner in, “The Terrible Time of the Strongmen” and Rojas under the title, “Soft Coups?” in the Mexican newspaper La Razón

The first, the politician, makes a list of twelve demands shared by the citizens of Latin American countries against governments of the left, the center and the right; the second, the academic, questions the term “golpista” (coup supporter) from the leftist governments faced with their respective “peaceful and institutional oppositions, without the support of the armies, who are loyal to their governments.”

Looking at this simultaneously from different positions – which do not diverge – overlooking the Latin American political landscape, one appreciates the agreement on the inefficiencies of the continent’s democracies. The protests, organized or spontaneous, with greater or lesser violence, allowed or suppressed, are a reflection of the discontent of certain sectors who do not feel duly represented in the halls of parliaments, where what is demanded with shouts in the street should be settled in a calm way.

The leaders affected by these protests, whatever political color they may be, defend themselves wielding the supposed legitimacy they once achieved at the ballot box, dismissing the demonstrators and claiming they have been confused or bought by foreign powers, or they send their supporters out into the streets to compete in numbers with the opposition.

Curiously, neither of the two analysts includes the case of Cuba. It gives the impression that the Caribbean island does not belong to Latin America, or that the uniqueness of Cuba merits its own separate study.

Of the dozen grievances enumerated by Montaner only one, the violation of human rights, has a permanent presence in the Sunday marches of the Ladies in White or the demonstrations of UNPACU in Cuba’s eastern provinces. The rest of the topics, except for the shortages, seem to be postponed until we have an imperfect democracy, although any one of them is worthy of an entire day of protest.

Another curiosity that comes to mind after reading “Soft Coups,” signed by Rojas, is that the Cuban government is on the only one in the club of Latin American leftists that has never used the descriptive “coup supporters” in the long list of insults it launches against opponents on the island or in exile. And this is despite the fact that from the most radical sectors of the opposition there is no attempt to hide the desire to “overthrow the dictatorship.” Not for one second does it occur to the managers of official propaganda that those in uniform would be against them.

The only military coup that might be expected in Cuba would have come from this recalcitrant left that frowns on timid openings in the market, rapprochement with the United States through an eventual normalization of relations, and any concession to multiparty democracy.

The presumed protagonists of this coup option would not go out into the street with posters or gladioli, but rather with tanks and machine guns. But this is an improbable hypothesis, just as much as is the sudden appearance of an enlightened leader who would drag the people to a restorative platform through the instrument of revolutionary means.