Old and Evil… Yes, but not Wise / Miriam Celaya

Work of Cuban painter Pedro Pablo Oliva

For Cubans, accustomed to living at such a slow pace that time seems to pass only through sheer inertia, as if we belonged to the dizzying world beyond our borders, that other dimension of this universe, recent weeks have begun to make a difference. The Cuban reality has become less apathetic and linear – the obstinate legacy of CAME-style socialism that artificially changed the natural dynamics of a western country — and, suddenly, multiple simultaneous events begin to occur, apparently unconnected, but, when viewed together, respond to the system’s failure and the long accumulation of errors in the sociopolitical and economic life, inevitably pointing to the advent of an era in which accelerated changes can occur in any direction and in an unpredictable manner.

Almost on a daily basis, incidents have been springing up, such as arrests, threats, house confinements, repudiation rallies in various parts of the island by the repression forces and other supporters of the regime, and there have even been raids against presumably prostitute homosexuals these past few days, in the middle of Parque Central, before the vacant eyes of a marble apostle, which ended with the death of a 34-year-old young man in circumstances not clearly established. The common denominator of the victims of the official repression is their claim to universally recognized rights and peaceful methods of struggle, in sharp contrast to the brutality that has been applied in most cases to try to suppress the growing public unrest.

Each day, apparent fear of the authorities is becoming more evident and dissident sectors more visible in the country. Each situation seems favorable to break the false calm that hides behind a slight, though sustained, increase in the contained nonconformity: the parks around the National Capitol, the Mercado Único, the Our Lady of Charity procession on September 8th, the free and spontaneous meetings of citizens’ debates in private homes – whether in Miramar, Nuevo Vedado, or in any other neighborhood in the capital or throughout the country — the growth in independent journalism and in the number of bloggers and even a Christian church in one of the busiest boulevards in Havana that has caused an unusual interruption in the traffic flow and a spectacular deployment of police and Interior Ministry special forces.

Suddenly, without warning, events that just a couple of years ago were unthinkable are taking place. Coincidence? I think not. And there are reasons to believe that the situation may become ever more complex. There is evidence that the repressive actions only serve to stoke the fire of insubordination. More than five decades of totalitarian control have been able to slow the process, but not to prevent it. The accumulation of frustration, lack of perspective and, above all, the despair, don’t provide an environment conducive to the application of repressive measures. The government, whether it likes it or not, should be walking on eggshells.

If this rare situation in the country were not enough, the regime finds itself nearing a complex international juncture that will influence, perhaps decisively, the course of events. Among them are: the elections in Venezuela that could decisively change the current circumstances and force the Cuban government to take urgent steps for changes, the US elections, which could favor the sectors most prone to toughening the sanctions against the regime and thus directly affect revenues to the Cuban economy from several sectors, with an immediate effect on society as a whole; the continuance of the Common Position of the European Union, which tends to isolate the dictatorship, and the global economic crisis, among other things.

While this horizon, full of storm clouds, looms over our near future, the Cuban government continues to further damage its already ruined reputation by supporting dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East, in solidarity with the most repudiated global satrapies; removing the credentials of foreign media representatives; developing its partnerships with new regional leaders, and acting heavy-handedly towards the growing protests inside the country.

Today, when dictatorships are being annihilated, when citizen protests and governmental intolerance converge dangerously, just when the new rhythm that marks the era may affect despotic powers more so than those lesser individuals deprived of freedom, the Cuban reality is wiping out the old adage “the devil knows more because he is old than because he is the devil”. So, our extremely old rulers are, without a doubt, devils, but they are absolutely not showing us any proof of their wisdom.

Translated by Norma Whiting

September 12 2011